The next time you watch baseball on TV or take your kids to a practice, take notice of the pitcher's mound—that lump of dirt in the middle of the infield that every kid dreams of someday taking up residence on as the next (insert your favorite MLB pitcher here).
Growing up around the game, I was just like most people—I didn't know how much care and attention to detail goes into creating and maintaining a playable game day mound. Where I am from, we just toed the mound and played. We didn't care that—by the second inning—your ankle was below the mound and all the dust was kicked out of the way. We just kept digging it deeper, for leverage!
Years later, I know better. That lump of dirt took a heck of a lot of work to get it to look that way, and even more work to keep it playable.
There are thousands of baseball fields across America, and even more pitcher's mounds, considering that each field has not only the game mound, but also some type of bullpen to practice on. A majority of the mounds are probably either not to specification, or may have been spec at one time but have not been properly maintained.
Pitcher’s Mound Maintenance
Proper measurements for high school level and above specify the pitcher's mound at 60 feet, 6 inches from the apex of home plate, and the proper height of the mound to be 10 inches above the grade of home plate.
Anyone that has a tape measure can determine or evaluate these measurements fairly easy, but that is where the simplicity stops.
Constructing a properly built mound takes time, patience, and a little bit of sweat. The key to maintaining these measurements is where the hard work comes into play. After every use, your game mound and your bullpen mounds should be refreshed. Like anything we invest time and money into, we want to protect it and make sure we keep getting a return on our investment.
For best results—and to keep your mounds ready for play the next day—repair the mound, apply water, and cover after every use.
These are simple steps to apply, but are you doing it?
Rebuilding Your Mound—Mistakes to Avoid
A pitcher's mound is where many young ballplayers' dreams begin. Their dream can also end here if the measurements are too extreme, and can result in arm injuries at a young age. Some things to watch out for include:
- Slope is too steep
- Slope is too flat
- Distance is too far between mound and home plate
- Mound is not centered with home plate (as it relates to first and third baselines)
We owe it to the game, but more importantly we owe it to our youth, to get these measurements corrected.
Start with the Right Stuff
So you’ve decided to renovate your pitcher’s mound and/or batter’s box—but before you get started, there are some questions you should ask yourself. Understanding the task ahead enables you to properly prepare for your renovation project, as well as articulate the advantages a properly installed and maintained mound can have in terms of positively impacting the play.
- Do I have to use pure clay, or can I just use my infield mix?
- How much clay do I need? Am I going to use clay bricks or clay bags?
- Are my measurements correct on the bases? (This will affect the measurements for your mound).
- Is my home plate level? And is it level with the infield (in particular, in relation to second base)?
- How do I measure the 10 inch height that my mound needs to be?
- How much does the material cost? What do I need to budget for partial or full remodel?
- Can I rebuild my batter’s box and catcher’s box at same time?
- What tools do I need to get it done right?
- Can my players help maintain the mound, or is it something I need to do myself?
- Will my players have an advantage or disadvantage with these changes?
For the answers to these and other questions—or for details on the proper dimensions of a pitcher’s mound—contact your local Ewing branch or sports turf specialist at firstname.lastname@example.org.