Baseball/Softball Maintenance Guide
Once the season kicks off, we know the work is far from over.
We've complied a resource guide for all the common wear areas of your baseball field to help you keep your field safe and playable far past opening day!
Discover specific baseball/softball turf tips with our Groundskeeper Chat series!
Baseball Lip Management and Maintenance: Groundskeeper Chat with Shaun Eberhart
Shaun Eberhart, Director of Grounds with Northeast Community Schools in Goose Lake, Iowa shares his turf tips for maintaining a safe and aesthetically pleasing lip throughout a busy baseball/softball season.
Eberhart's fields can see two to three practices, followed by a game in one day. So, staying on top of lip maintenance practices is key in order to prevent build up.
Eberhart's Groundskeeper Chat Turf Tips for Lip Maintenance
- Eberhart will utilize a push broom to keep material out of the grass on a daily basis and address edging needs on a weekly basis.
- Players, wind and water all play a role in moving material around on the field. Eberhart edges the lip area weekly while in season to address whether the arc needs reshaping or material needs to be added or removed. Edging the field or reshaping the arc can take up to four to five hours a week in season, so finding the time can be the biggest challenge, but staying on top of this practice is key to maintaining a safe transition zone between grass and infield and combatting bad hops during game play.
- Watering and flushing out the grass/transition zone goes hand-in-hand with Eberhart's edging practices. Watering will clean the grass out and push a significant amount of material back into the infield.
- Lastly, Eberhart operates as a one man band most days, but if players or volunteers come out to help on the field he preaches the importance of pace. When dragging or moving any material on the field, keep a slow and steady pace to ensure consistency on the field.
Infield Construction and Maintenance: Groundskeeper Chat with Brad Finn
Brad Finn with the University of Houston joined us to detail their softball field renovation and share his turf tips for infield maintenance.
Finn shared that he always starts with the basic elements when embarking on a reconstruction project which includes, testing what already exists on the field, understanding the budgets and determining goals as an organization.
Finn's Groundskeeper Chat Turf Tips for Infield Maintenance
- Moisture. The moisture of your infield skin is the lifeline to how the field will play. Depending on how the coach wants the field, you can tweak moisture levels while still maintaining safety and playability. Nightly watering, how many layers your infield is composed of and which material is on the field all play a factor in maintaining proper moisture.
- Drainage. Another turf tip that goes hand-in-hand with maintaining proper moisture is field drainage. Be sure to determine if and where your field has draining so that you can plan around this.
- Infield Mix. Finn recommended working with a trusted partner to test what is currently working on the field and what's currently causing issues. This gives you a great starting point to determine what needs to be removed/added to the infield skin.
- Grade. Grade impacts how surface water will travel through your field. Finn installed a radial grade to his field that acts like a cone on the field when heavy rainfall needs quick draining.
Baseball/Softball Mound Maintenance: Groundskeeper Chat with Weston Floyd
Texas A&M's Weston Floyd taps into his past life experiences with baseball and softball to talk mound maintenance with Meg.
Like most things in turf, understanding your budget and how to enhance what you already have is a great place to start with your baseball/softball mounds.
Floyd's Groundskeeper Chat Turf Tips for Mound Maintenance
- Daily Maintenance includes patching the mound, sweeping and tamping. Pitchers all move differently, whether they drag their feet, walk back and forth or meet at the table of the mound. Patching and leveling out on a daily basis will maintain the mound as the consistent center of the field.
- Before games be sure the mound is moist to the organization's liking. Playing a game on a dry mound can create holes or problem areas to your mound that are more difficult to repair.
- Floyd would look to rebuild/reconstruct his mounds 1-2 times/year depending on staff. Before heading into fall ball and before putting the field to bed for the season, is the time Floyd recommends reconstructing your mound.
- When adding or replacing materials, understanding your budget and what is already present on the mound is important. The best bonds happen when you're adding or replacing with what you already have on the mound. Think long term and build the mound with whatever material you'll patch with throughout the season to ensure strong bonds in the materials all year long.
Home Plate Maintenance: Groundskeeper Chat with Michael Saaranen
Michael Saaranen and his Denver Parks and Rec crew will touch over 90 baseball fields a week during the season.
Michael shares what he and his crew do to ensure playability even though their time at each field is limited.
Saaranen's Groundskeeper Chat Turf Tips for Home Plate Maintenance
- Staying on top of the common wear areas on the field is Saaranen's biggest priority since he has to manage over 90 baseball/softball fields a season. They practice daily patching and clay fill in with the batter's boxes and mounds before game time.
- Saaranen discussed utilizing user groups to help with time sensitive tasks because he and his crew may be at the field in AM when the game isn't till that evening. With home plate, Saaranen hopes to utilize users groups to remove mats before game play that would be placed on the batter's box after maintenance was performed earlier that day.
- Saaranen discussed how materials in baseball can be complicated because grass, clay, infield mix and conditioner should all be present on the field but none of them should be mixing. Saaranen uses bagged clay for home plate patching and maintenance because it's the most compatible with seasonal staff and their time sensitive schedule.
- Lastly, Saaranen stresses again the importance of keeping the clay clean, and the only way to do that is to stay on top of the job all season long with daily maintenance practices.
Infield Maintenance: Groundskeeper Chat with Zach Dodenhoff
Zach Dodenhoff, Athletic Field Supervisor for Loyola Marymount University battles regional challenges of high winds and low humidity in Southern California.
Dodenhoff shares his infield maintenance turf tips for baseball season to ensure a smooth, tight and firm infield for play.
Dodenhoff's Groundskeeper Chat Turf Tips for Infield Maintenance
- Water is the number one component for keeping things smooth and firm for Dodenhoff and his crew who are up against high winds and low humidity conditions during the baseball season. They start the day with a heavy water to the infield, followed by a nail drag, then they'll assess if conditioner needs to be added before finishing with a steel mat drag on the surface. Before practice or game time, the crew will water a few more times to ensure moisture sustains throughout game play.
- When time allows for bigger maintenance routines, the crew will take a look at their baselines and edges. They'll remove the conditioner and till the material to ensure consistency. At this point they'll add material to low areas before rolling with tires and tamping. Lastly, Dodenhoff is a big advocate for rolling, so he'll complete the job by rolling the field with a one ton roller to keep a smooth, consistent surface.
- On an annual basis, Dodenhoff will address his mound, whether it needs reconstructing or not. Take a closer look at baselines and laser level in December or January following the fall ball season.
- Lastly, Dodenhoff says you can't put a price tag on safety. This is how he'll relate his practices and budget back to admin or coaches throughout the season. He has found success by including coaches in the process and inviting them out to the field when big projects are taking place.
Baseball Field Expectations and Maintenance on a Tight Budget: Groundskeeper Chat with Andy Ommen
Andy Ommen was a volunteer at McLean County PONY baseball complex for 18 years before starting Professional Outdoor Solutions.
Ommen joined us at SFMA to share his tips for managing baseball fields on a tight budget.
Ommen's Groundskeeper Chat Turf Tips for Baseball Field Maintenance on a Tight Budget.
- When Ommen started his volunteer gig with a field his kid played on he had zero budget dollars. Ommen believes in the power of asking, with the worst outcome only being a no. Ommen encourages others not to be discouraged by a no but continue to advocate for the field and the work you're doing.
- Ommen started with a grounds plan that focused on safety and would present that to the powers that be. Safety and playability can be related back to decision makers if you speak their language. Everyone wants the kids to be safe and better fields means more games played which means more hot dogs sold.
- Ommen had to get creative with equipment and would look to see what others were doing in the industry and replicate their technique on a smaller scale. Ommen turned rakes into levels and after demonstrating the difference leveling could make to the field, he would ask to purchase the real deal.
- Demonstrating the difference is a practice Ommen lived by for 18 years in the volunteer gig. He would tap into the industry and it's knowledgable network and take that knowledge back to his fields. Collecting data points and demonstrating the difference is what solidified Ommen as a professional in his community, which in turn, presented opportunities for himself and the complex.