Sunday, February 21, 2010

Infield Mixes, Vol 8: Edging Infields and Warning Tracks

Edging an infield is a basic task that can accomplish many goals. Edging is simply broken into two categories: pre/post-season and in-season.

Pre/post-season edging can remove large amounts of turf. In northern climates, Kentucky bluegrass produces rhizomes, which causes the plant to spread. In southern climates, bermudagrass produces both rhizomes and stolons and is very aggressive/invasive on infields and warning tracks. Re-establishing edges before a season can be tricky if proper planning is not taken. ALWAYS measure your edges after your last edging of the season.

How do you do this? For baselines, stretch a string that your typically lay out for the foul line. Measure each edge off the line and make a simple drawing. (varies) For the infield, place all three bases in the anchors and measure from the back corner of the base to the front edge of the infield. (typically 3 ft) For the base cutouts, use a 100 ft tape and measure for the anchor to the turf edge. (typically 15 ft) For the back arc, take the same 100 ft tape and measure from 1 ½ ft in front of the pitcher’s rubber to the back arc. (typically 95 ft) Now, all the guessing of the first edging of the spring is a thing of the past! For the warning track, measure off the wall/chain link fence. Then, edge the surface and bring the field back to in-season dimensions.

In-season edging will keep the field not only looking good, but also reduces lips. ALWAYS string up the edges before edging the infield or warning track. In-season, edging should take place every two weeks. If you are edging every two weeks, only grass clippings will be removed.

Now you have the basic info, let’s look at the tools! Pre/post-season edging will require a bed edger and a typical blade edger. Also, to remove the turf, a loop hoe is handy. When edging in-season, the blade edger is the best choice.

Play on!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Infield Mixes, Vol 7: Adding New Infield Mix to Existing Mixes

Every infield will need additional material added to the existing infield on a frequent basis. The question I usually hear is: “How often will I need to add material?” That question is not easy to answer for a few reasons. First, what type of mix are you using on your existing infield? Often, local and less expensive mixes are used. A mix that is not balanced will not hold a grade as well as a balanced infield mix. What is your sand/silt/clay and SCR in your mix? Secondly, how close do you want the transition for turf to dirt to be? At the highest levels, mix is added at least once a year to ensure good ball roll and to ensure correct surface drainage. If your infield mix is low, the back edge will create a dam for water after rain events.

So, with all that said, how do you add new mix? The first task is to test your infield mix. A test will cost about $100 per test, but when a good, balanced mix can cost $1,500+ per load the $100 test is well worth the expense! You need to know what you have before you decide what to add. (Consult Infield Mixes, Vol 3 for more info) If you have questions, please let me know. I will work with you to ensure that a correct mix is added to your existing mix. After the mix that will be added is determined, it’s time to go to work.

The first step is to remove all the topdressing from the infield. This topdressing may be able to be re-used if the material is clean and free of the existing mix. Next, if the infield grade is in poor condition a rough laser grade should be performed to move the existing mix into the correct location. The new infield mix should then be added to the existing infield using a topdresser to ensure consistent application of the new material. Blecavating the infield is the next step. Blending the new material into the existing material at a 4 inch depth is CRITICAL! Furthermore make sure all the edges are tilled by hand. After the blending takes place, the infield is rolled with a 3 ton duel drum roller to ensure proper compaction. Then, the process of laser grading and rolling is performed until the infield reaches the proper grade. Finally, infield topdressings are added and the infield is finished with a mat drag.

Adding new mixes to existing mixes is a very labor intensive operation. With skilled labor and the correct equipment, this process will take between 8-12 hours to complete. To be honest, this is a job that is best to leave to professionals.

Play on!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Infield Mixes, Vol 6: Topdressings

Infield topdressings are always a great point of discussion. Topdressing is the top 1/4 – ½ inch of material on the surface of the infield. Topdressing acts as the “mulch” of the infield. Infield topdressings fall into major three categories:

1. Calcined Clay
2. Vitrified Clay
3. Crushed Aggregates

Calcined clay is a clay baked between 1200 to 1400 degrees in rotary kilns. The common trade names for calcined clays include: Diamond Pro Professional Calcined Clay, Soilmaster Red, and Turface MVP. Calcined clays are extremely absorbent and slowly release moisture back to the soil. Typically, calcined clays are reddish-tan in color.

Calcined clay drying agents are the smallest sized calcined clay products. Since the products are smaller, they cover more surface area, thus this products dries wet areas quicker than a calcined clay topdressing.

Vitrified clay is a clay that is baked at over 2000 degrees in rotary kilns. The common trade name for this product is Diamond Pro Infield Conditioner. Vitrified clays have low moisture absorption capabilities and dry quickly after wetting.

Crushed aggregates are typically a decomposed granite, or in other areas of the Midwest, brick dust. Crushed aggregates will break down quicker than calcined or vitrified clays. The most common issue I see is raising elevation too much with crushed aggregates. Furthermore, brick dust is very abrasive and will stain uniforms.

The bottom line is: any topdressing used at a depth in excess of 1/2 in will produce a surface that will be too loose when dry. If your infield is more than 1/2 inch low, additional infield mix will need to be brought in and blended with the existing material. (There will be a post on that topic shortly)

Which topdressing is best for your field? Do you have topdressing questions? Feel free to leave a comment, or give me a call/email. I will be happy to assist you in any topdressing question.

Play on!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Infield Mixes, Vol 5 : Laser Grading

Well we have covered the basics of infield mixes, what makes up a mix, SCR and EST, and drainage, so let’s move on to grading.

Simply stated, laser grading is the use of laser technology to grade an infield. The laser is set up on a fixed point, depending on which type of laser is used, and sends a laser beam to a receiver mounted to a pole on the box blade. As the blade is pulled or pushed across the infield the system will automatically move the blade up or down to provide an accurate and consistent grade. How accurate? I like to see +/- 1/8 in.

Typically two different types of lasers are used. A dual slope laser grades in a slope or crown. These lasers are typically used to grade football and soccer fields, but can be used on baseball and softball fields, especially older fields. A conical laser grades in a cone. When a conical laser is used all three bases are at the same elevation. Conical lasers are the industry standard for new infield construction.

As was stated in the drainage post, infields should always be laser graded. After laser grading, especially in new construction, a survey referred to as an existing topographical survey should be taken and reviewed with the owner and contractor. This will assure the owner of the property that the surface was graded properly.

Why is all of this important? As the drainage post explains, surface drainage is the best and only way to effectively drain an infield. If there are irregularities in the grade, i.e. – “bird baths” water will hold in the areas and make the infield unplayable after rain events. Remember – water does not run uphill!

Always ask your grading contractor if they implement laser technology, and ask them to explain their grading plan to you before materials are moved on your playing surface.

Play on!