Baseball Field Maintenance Checklist: Tips to Keeping Your Field Pristine
May 15, 2014
They say that dog-eared pages are a sign of a well-loved book. By the same token, you might say that a disheveled, pitted baseball field is a sign of a rip-roaring season. Unfortunately, few fans, players or owners are going to see it that way. A thorough approach to mid-season baseball field maintenance can ensure that your diamond stays in pristine condition through the last pitch of the season. If you’re committed to keeping your field in Major League shape, here are five baseball field maintenance tips you’ll want to incorporate into your summer schedule.
Baseball Field Maintenance Tip #1: Aeration of your Ball Field
Many overlooked mid-season baseball field maintenance practices are those the groundskeepers do only once a year. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with aerating only once a year, but you can probably double your effectiveness if you throw in another session in the summer. Highly trafficked fields are going to succumb to gradual yet inevitable turf thinning. You can strike back against this thinning by aerating twice a year. Frequent core aeration can lead to increased oxygenation of the soil, allow for better nutrient utilization and increase the grass’s ability to withstand periods of drought.
Baseball Field Maintenance Tip #2: Water Your Field
Watering directly after a game will help relieve stress on the grass. Check the weekly weather report and schedule the rest of your watering accordingly. Watering should be done only two to three times per week during warm weather months; daily watering can promote fungus growth. It should be done early in the morning, starting at dawn.
Baseball Field Maintenance Tip #3: Dry Your Puddles
If your baseball field is in a rainy location, chances are it's becoming a home for puddles by the middle of summer. There’s something iconic about determined players muddying their uniforms in the heat of battle, but that’s no excuse for leaving a pitted baseball field the way it is. With this baseball field maintenance checklist item, use the summer to make sure the skin of your field isn't a haven for pits and holes. While re-leveling is best done in the fall, you can drag those portions of the field unaffected by puddles to achieve an effective equilibrium in the meantime. Avoid sweeping excess water into the outfield — this can actually worsen the problem over time. To limit the amount of puddles while doing baseball infield maintenance, also consider adding a rain tarp cover especially during rainy seasons.
Baseball Field Maintenance Tip #4: Mow Your Field
Mow your field a minimum of twice per week during the season. Avoid mowing the grass too short in the summer, or you can cause stress on the roots. Keep blades on mowers sharp so they are more effective in cutting the grass. You should sharpen mower blades every six weeks during the season. Don’t use large riding mowers in the infield, as that can create big ruts. And spend a few minutes each week edging grass lines. This will make it easier to prevent dirt accumulation under lips that can be an injury risk for players in the infield. It will also prevent grass from growing into the baselines or mound.
Baseball Field Maintenance Tip #5: Smooth the Batter’s Box
The batter’s box is one of the most problematic and overlooked sections of any baseball field. If you inspect fields with an inadequate baseball field maintenance program, you’ll often find lumps, barren spots and outright holes in the batter’s box. This can lead to poor player performance, if not injury. One common error that inexperienced crews make is raking the batter’s box with the toothed side of the rake. This is a big mistake that can damage the integrity of the clay. Use the flat edge for better results in both the long and short term.
Baseball Field Maintenance Tip #6: Take Out the Weeds
So how else do you prep a baseball field ? Consider taking out any weeds before they become a bigger hassle. Weeds are an unsightly problem on any baseball field, and they can also be a hazard to good play when they grow out of control. While one treatment of weed poison may be enough for fields in areas with cold winters, baseball diamonds in year-round warm climates will require a mid-season look. Both pre-emergent and post-emergent weed products can serve you well, but don’t overlook the possibility of deeper problems. Excessive weed growth is often a sign of soil problems that will eventually need to be addressed.
Baseball Field Maintenance Tip #7: Drag the Base Paths
For the last item in our baseball field maintenance guide , your last check mark should go with dragging the base paths. Maintenance crews fortunate enough to have a budget usually drag the base paths with a machine tool, but you’ll get much better results if you do it by hand. It’s important to use a drag that won’t overlap into the grass, as this can create the all-too-common ridge between the infield and the outfield. That ridge may be commonplace, but it's also one of the surest signs of poor baseball field maintenance. If you rake your base paths correctly, you can avoid that unsightly ridge and make things much easier on the ball team.
Baseball Field Maintenance Tip #8: Get Covered
Rain covers and turf protectors are a valuable tool in your mid-season baseball field maintenance toolbox. Use rain covers to protect the entire infield or just home plate, the mount and the bases. They’ll help to protect the field from rain, which can damage the playing surface and cause game delays. Turf protectors are effective at defending your infield from concentrated ball force during batting practice.
Baseball Field Maintenance Tip #9: Perform Regular Checkups
The more you know about your field, the better you can maintain it. You should walk your field every single day, looking for potential hazards or problems. Daily field maintenance will help preserve the safety of the athletes playing on the field. It’s also important to keep good records of your field maintenance activities. Use a calendar to track daily tasks, record fertilizer and pesticide applications, and keep logs for your field maintenance equipment. Daily care of the bullpen, home plate and mound is essential. You need to use a tamp, flat shovel, field rake and a small drag mat on these areas each day to keep the clay level. Check the field dimensions after each game to make sure they stay accurate. The mound should slope an inch for every foot and should be 10 inches high.
Building a better field is a fulltime job. What you do to care for a baseball field at midseason is as important as what you do before and after the season. Baseball fields that receive extra attention during midseason are better positioned to hold up through season’s end.
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