Baseball Field Care
Do you spend time (or waste time) with baseball field care? Just a few minutes each day will provide you with a great playing surface and the envy of other coaches. It starts with a field maintenance plan for 12 months out of the year.
A few items in a good baseball field maintenance plan would include: MOWING PLAN - How often should your field be mowed and at what height? Most fields are mowed twice a week slowing down to once a week during the off season. During the peak of the season the infield can be mowed every other day. Most big league parks mow their field every day, but they have full time staff and resources. Be sure not to mow too short or you will stress the grass. It's better to leave the grass a little higher and mow it more often. Use a reel mower and be sure the blades stay sharpe. The money spent on getting the blades sharpen every 6 weeks is well worth it. Walk behind reel mowers are great for the infield.
GRASS - Baseball field grass is usually a hybrid bermuda grass that is durable and easy to mow. We use a Tifton Turf hybrid. A low growing perennial sports rye can be used in the cold weather months to protect the field, especially in the early part of the baseball season when the Bermuda is still dormant. Be sure to spread your grass seed and water well ahead of time so that the field is fully covered when practice starts. Overseed liberally and be sure to overlap. You do not want the rye grass to be thin or have bald spots.
FERTILIZATION - Fertilization should start when the bermuda is no longer dormant and beginning to grow in the early spring. Fertilization should be applied every 5-6 weeks. Take the time to get soil samples and use the right nutrients when fertilizing.
WATERING - Water is important to help your grass stay healthy and green. You need a balanced watering plan, taking into account the weekly weather report and time of the year. Watering done during the warm growing seasons occur about every 3rd day. Watering is best done in the early morning (starting around 5 or 6 AM) when their is less stress on the grass from the sun. Be sure to water deep with stations set to rotate every 30-40 minutes. Watering daily in shorter time intervals will promote fungus and unhealthy grass.
Watering after a game is good during a dry hot spell. It will help to relieve stress on the grass. Be sure not to leave the sprinklers on too long or late at night. AERATION - Baseball fields need to be aerated at least once during the summer. For fields that are really compacted and hard you can aerate a second time about 4-6 weeks apart (early June and mid August for example). Aeration punches holes in the ground and allows for the air and water to get deep down into the roots. Be sure to water liberally to allow for the grass to be soft and the aeration to work properly. Water again really good afer aeration. The dirt cores will be scattered over the field. Allow a day or two for them to dry out and then use a drag mat to break them up and allow the dirt to settle back into the grass.
We also will try to verticut (vertical mowing) the baseball field at least every other year (also in the summer) to allow the roots more room to grow horizontally and the grass to spread thicker. You will need a special verticut machine to do this. These machines can be rented or you can probably hire a lawn/field care company to come out and do this for you. TOP DRESSING - Top dressing involves spreading dump truck loads of fine white sand (like golf course sand) over the grass. We usually do this at least once in July-August or early September after aeration. Use a field spreader (preferably the kind you pull behind your riding mower) to save time and your back.
CLAY CONDITIONING- Every off season we bring in more clay for the infield. It's amazing how much clay blows away with the wind during the hot parts of the season. Usually a dump truck load does the trick to bring it back up to par with the grass lines on the field. We also use about 40-50 bags of some type of clay conditioning product(larger granuals are best). Spread the prouct in the bags out over the infield clay in small piles and rake the piles by hand to level it. Then use the drag mat for several days to work the conditioner into the top layer of the clay. We also order 40-60 bags of the clay drying products to keep in storage for rainy days. (These products also work well for wet grass areas).
Every 3-5 years we relevel the infield clay. This usually involves hiring someone with the skills and equipment (a laser grading tractor) to check our field level and move clay around as needed. It can get unlevel over several years of use. GRASS EDGING - A baseball field is a geometric figure (a diamond) with the deminsions of the baselines and pitching mound to homeplate being exact. But often the grass lines where the dirt of the infield/homeplate/mounds often grows in and begins to look unkept. If you spend a few minutes each week edging and maintaing your grass lines it will be a lot easier than spending a week or two trying to get it back in shape. This also will help to avoid dirt build up under the grass edges (lips) that can become dangerous and harmful to your fielders. Be sure to take the time to pull a string line between the bases to keep a straight edge. MOUND/HOMEPLATE/BULLPEN CARE - A plan must be in place to daily maintain these areas during the season. Essential equipment includes a tamp, flat shovel, field rake, mound clay, small watering bucket, an old towl, and small drag mat or push broom. Investing in covers for these areas is also very important.
MORE MOUND CARE TIPS ACCURATE MEASUREMENTS - Be sure to keep your baseball field dimensions accurate. The slope of the mound (1" for every 1 foot) is important as is the mound height(rule book says 10"). Also, be sure to keep your dimensions accurate on the diameter of homeplate and the mound, as well as the arc on the back edge of the grass.
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