Saturday, January 30, 2010

Infield Mixes, Vol. 4: Infield Drainage

There are three options for drainage: (1) subsurface, (2) surface and (3) subsurface with surface.

First up, let’s talk subsurface drainage, that is drainage tiles installed under the surface. Typically the trenches are backfilled with stone and then capped with infield mix. Simple enough, though there are two primary concerns.

One, basic soil science tells us that finer textured soil should not be placed over courser soil. Why? The finer textured soil must become fully hydrated before draining to a larger textured soil.

Two, if the infield is compacted correctly during construction/renovation and it contains the correct sand/silt/clay ratio, the infield is too firm to percolate any moisture. I have seen numerous examples of infield projects gone wrong when the local earthwork contractor attempts to install subsurface drainage on an infield.

Here’s a free tip that can save you money: typically what the infield needed was more infield mix to bring the infield to the correct grade.

The second drainage option is surface drainage. For me, this is the way to drain an infield. From the front edge to the back arc, .5% grade is all that is needed for an infield surface. 1% is too much as the topdressing on the infield tends to run off into the outfield grass during heavy rain events.

For softball, from the pitching rubber in all directions, .4% grade is all that is needed. Why the difference? Any grade more than .4% will provide a surface that appears to have a mound. As we all know, softball players do not like mounds on their fields. Another note on softball fields, .4% has to be consistent across the infield. I have fielded numerous calls on infield mixes and topdressing running off of infields an into dugouts/seating areas. One field in particular had a .4% around the mound, which is correct, but a 1% from the foul lines to the dugouts. It is the 1% that is causing the runoff during heavy rains.

As you can tell, a little variation in surface drainage can cause big problems. So, how do you ensure the correct surface drainage? Laser grading is the answer. Under ALL circumstances lasers should be used. The technology is the industry standard, do not accept anything less. Depending on your site, a conical or dual plane laser will be the tool of choice. (I will post a couple of laser and laser grading articles later this year.)

My advice? Forget all the subsurface drainage and make sure that your infield is laser graded frequently to .5% for baseball and .4% for softball.

Play on!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Infield Mixes, Vol. 3: EST/SCR


As the Head Groundskeeper at Victory Field, I can’t tell you how many times I heard this saying. “Well we don’t have the budget that you do at Victory Field!” Of course, most facilities do not have the budget of Victory Field. So, my goal was, how do we bring the materials that are used at the highest levels and apply them to all fields. EST/SCR is the answer.

EST simply stands for Engineered Soil Technology. EST is the process that computer blends materials. So, with the advent of EST, engineered soil manufacturers can computer blend amendments and mixes based on your field needs. In the past, what was used at Victory Field would not work at a city park. The lower sand content and higher clay content of the professional mixes become too difficult to manage for a parks system that has 1 person working on 5 fields. That’s a long way from the 8 I had working on the playing surface at Victory Field after games.

Now, with EST the same manufacturer can blend a mix that has 60% sand, typical in a professional setting, and also blend a mix that has 73% sand, typical with a recreational setting. Both mixes contain the same silt and clay. Thus, the technology that is used at the highest levels is now brought to all levels. How cool is that!

Another acronym that will become commonplace in the sports turf industry is SCR. SCR stands for silt/clay ratio. How do you figure out your SCR? Simply divide your silt by your clay.

For example: A mix contains 70% sand, 22% silt, and 8% clay.

The SCR is 22 divided by 8 = 2.75 SCR

As a rule of thumb, your SCR should be .5 – 1.0. What happens if your SCR is above 1.0? Your infield will be sloppy in the spring (i.e. the material pushes out of each side of your shoes as the step on a wet infield).

How about, low areas around your bases and a dusty infield when dry? Without even looking at the infield, I would bet that the SCR is greater than 2.5.

Most mixes native to Indiana do have an SCR of 2.5 or higher. What does that mean for your infield? If your SCR is 2.5+ it will play well in some but not all conditions. In other words, you will be re-scheduling games while those with an SCR of 1.0 will be playing.

Do you test your infield soil? What is your SCR? Why head into the 2010 season not knowing?

Play on!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Infield Mixes, Vol. 2: What Makes Up a Mix?

What makes a good infield mix? You hear it all the time. “Our infield mix is a 70/30.” That is another statement that is echoed frequently in the industry.
One of the reasons why the Smart Turf blog was created was to shed light on many issues in sports turf. What makes a good infield mix typically is at the top of the list of questions. So, let’s get to the bottom of the matter.

First of all, for years building and maintaining baseball/softball infields was considered an art. What one groundskeeper thought was a great infield, another thought it was a horrible infield. The process was subjective and creative. How many times have you heard, “I’m looking for some black dirt.” Or, “I’m looking for some red clay.” Times are changing and the tide is turning to science. Why? Simply stated, when the process is a science, soils are tested, results can be predictable, and replicable.

The infield mix profile consists of three components. The deepest part of the profile is a compacted native soil that is 3-6 inches below the surface. Next, the base soil exists. The base soil is the “meat” of the infield. The material is usually imported, compacted firmly, and has surface drainage. (more on drainage in another upcoming blog) Finally, 1/8-1/4 in of topdressing rests on the surface much like mulch in a landscaping. (more on topdressing in another upcoming blog)

So, what makes a good mix? A good mix has many characteristics, but the most important ones include: traction, playability, and consistency. A mix should provide consistent traction, the ability for athletes to play the game without sliding/slipping around the infield. The infield should play consistently in a variety of weather conditions. How many time have you heard, “I hope it doesn’t rain, we will be shut down for 3 days!” When all the characteristics are achieved, the infield is considered a “balanced soil.”

Infield mixes have three components, sand, silt, and clay. Sand, the largest soil particle, provides the structural integrity of the infield. The targeted range is 58-75% and over 50% of the sand should be retained on the medium sieve. Silt, the second largest soil particle, acts as a bridge between the sand and the clay. 10-35% is the acceptable range. Clay, the smallest soil particle, provides the color of the mix and retains moisture. 15-35% is the acceptable range. The take home message on silt/clay is that the ratio of silt/clay (SCR – more on that later) should NEVER be higher than 1:1.

Does your infield become very tacky after a rain? Does your infield blow around during periods of dry weather? Is your infield too beachy? What are your sand/silt/clay percentages of your infield? Testing is the only way to know!

Play on!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Infield Mixes, Vol. 1

The old baseball adage is that when everyone starts talking about the Super Bowl, baseball season must be close. Well, Super Bowl XLIV is a relatively big topic of conversation in Indianapolis and it is snowing outside, so what a better time to talk about infields!

Welcome to the first of a string of volumes regarding infield mixes for baseball and softball fields. The goal of this section of entries to the blog is to breakdown infields in the following manner:

1. Basic overview
2. What makes up mixes?
4. Drainage for infields?
5. Laser grade an infield?
6. Topdressing for infields?
7. How to add new infield material to existing material
8. Edging – In season and pre-season
9. “Lip” controls
10. Pre-season maintenance
11. In-season maintenance
12. Post-season maintenance

Let’s get moving, pitchers and catchers report to most big league camps in 25 days.

Play on!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sun Life Stadium Anyone?

From time to time, the Smart Turf blog will provide fun links to topical web sites. This time the link is a web cam for Sun Life Stadium, the site of Super Bowl XLIV in Miami. The camera can be a little unreliable at times, but nonetheless it is a site to follow. Be sure to click the "Time Lapse" button below the still photo to follow the field conversion from the Pro Bowl field to Super Bowl Sunday.
Play on!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

STMA, INPRA, and Indiana Baseball Coaches

Well, to be honest it is good to be back home. Orlando was in the midst of a record cold snap. In fact, it must have froze my camera! So, sorry no pictures from the trip. All in all it was a good show. The best topic was some new testing/technology that I will writing about more as the year progresses. Engineered Soil Technology (EST) is a system that in my opinion will be common infield mix speak within the next 1-3 years. With that technology comes the SCR. Do you know what your SCR is? Simply put, divide your silt by your clay and you have your silt to clay ratio (SCR). I will post more on this and other infield mix topics over the next couple of weeks as I breakdown infields as opening day for Major League Baseball approaches.

The J&D Turf staff will be at the Indiana Park and Rec Show on Wednesday and Thursday of this week, and at the Indiana Baseball Coaches Clinic on Thursday and Friday. If you attend either show, please stop by the booth and say hi!

Play on!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Indiana Green Expo 2010

Despite inclement weather last Thursday and Friday, the Indiana Green Expo was a success. Over 1,000 members attended the educational events and the trade show at the Indiana Convention Center. J&D Turf hosted a booth as well.

Wednesday, I am heading south to Orlando, FL for the national Sports Turf Managers Association conference. My trip includes a tour of a few spring training complexes on Friday in Tampa/St. Pete. Check back later this week for photos.

After Orlanda, next up are the Indiana Park and Rec Conference, Jan 20-21, and the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association Conference, Jan 21-23.

If you'll be at any of the shows, drop me a line. We can connect and talk turf.

Play on!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Petco Park

You’d be hard pressed to find a nicer stadium in Major League Baseball than Petco Park in San Diego. Not only is the playing surface top notch, the location, weather and other amenities really make the field stand out.
In San Diego in December, I stopped by the park as I always do when in a Big League town to satisfy my need for anything baseball…especially in the off season. If you ever get the chance to catch a game there, be sure to walk a lap around the concourse and you’d be surprised to find a T-Ball diamond positioned just beyond the fence in leftfield. Open when the team is not at home and accessible for a nominal gate fee during home games, the area is meant for fans and visitors to enjoy a game where the pros play.
Best yet, the field is kept by the Padres groundscrew, led by head groundskeeper Luke Yoder. He uses polymer coated infield mix and mound clay, to eliminate the need for water, and bermudagrass overseeded with perennial ryegrass for the infield and outfield.

Play on!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Talking Turf

A quick note on a great opportunity this week to discuss and listen to the latest in sports turf. The Indiana Green Expo is taking place at the Indiana Convention Center on Thursday January 7. Here are some of the highlights you won’t want to miss.

Mitch McClary, Head Groundskeeper with the Fort Wayne Tin Caps. Mitch will look back at his first year with the team, the Single-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres, and the first year for the new Parkview Field.

Andy Gossel, AD at Covenant Christian. Andy will detail how he hosts over 275 events on two natural grass fields. If you have not seen Andy’s fields, they are some of the best in Indiana!

Mike Goatley, Ph.D, Virgina Tech. Dr. Goatley will talk about the latest research on bermudagrass. Can it work in Indiana?

Cale Bigelow, Ph.D, Purdue University. Dr. Bigelow will lay out fertilizer programs for athletic fields.

Mike Boekholder, Head Groundskeeper at Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia Phillies). Once my boss at Victory Field, Mike will share the ins and outs of the grind of his MLB season that extended through the World Series.

And me. I will explain infield mixes for baseball and softball fields. How does the sand/silt/clay composition affect playability of your infield?

As you can see, it will be a great day to talk with others about sports turf at all levels. Go to for all the details.

Play on!