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Pro Tips on Athletic Field Maintenance

On Feb. 25, Ewing Sports Field Specialist Tim Lambert joined Ewing for Pro Tips Tuesday Facebook chat. Check out the questions and tips below for getting baseball and softball fields ready for spring!

Ewing: Welcome, Tim! Can you tell us what you do for Ewing?

Tim: I am the Sports Turf Salesman for Ewing in the Northwest. I work with Oregon and Washington high schools, colleges and park and rec facilities on how to make their sports fields safer and playable. I have been helping customers in sports turf for 3+ years and I love it!

Ewing: How did you get involved in the turf industry?

Tim: I started my career with Ewing helping golf courses with their irrigation needs. I was given the opportunity to work with our Sports Turf division about 3 years ago and have enjoyed it tremendously. I have a long baseball career, and I currently coach baseball. I have been involved in maintaining baseball fields for about 4 years.

Scott: Hi, Tim. Long time listener, first time poster. My question for you is what is the optimum sand silt clay content of an infield?

Tim: Hi Scott. This is a great question. It is very important to know what your sand, silt, clay percentages are on your baseball/softball fields. For recreational facilities, generally speaking, you want a higher sand content than clay and silt.

In the Portland market, I would suggest a mix of 65 -70 percent sand, 15 - 20 percent clay, and approximately 10 percent silt. In wetter climates you need more sand to help with water infiltration. In drier climates a 62 - 68 percent sand content is ideal. This is a great question and a local Ewing representative can help with a soil analysis to identify what your existing mix is and recommend the right solution.

Dominic: What tools would you recommend coaches have around to make emergency repairs to the batter box or pitching mound? Asking for a friend...

Tim: Hi Dominic. Thank you for your question. There are several tools that are important for repairs to batter's boxes and pitching mounds. Probably the most important is a good tamper. A 8" x 8" trench tamper works great! You will need to compact the clay base for your pitching mounds and batter's box area to make the footing stable for future use. Also you should have several quality landscape rakes, 2-way action hoes and a wheelbarrow.

Ewing: What are the most important goals for a coach and sports field maintenance personnel?

Tim: Without question, the No. 1 goal for coaches and sports field maintenance staff is to make sure that the playing surface is safe for play. You must walk the field everyday and evaluate playing conditions.

The most common issues that occur in early spring are wet field conditions. Applying soil conditioners like Turface MVP can greatly enhance the playing conditions in the spring. Turface absorbs moisture and provides a very smooth playing surface.

Ewing: Clay is often recommended for pitcher's mound and batter's box areas? What benefit(s) does it provide?

Tim: Clay is very important because it helps stabilize traction for the athletes. The pitcher's mound and batter's box area should have a clay base. If large holes are consistently a problem, renovating these areas with clay blocks can resolve any safety concerns. Clay blocks should be just 0.5" below the topdressing of the mix. Keeping the clay moist is also important throughout the season. I encourage fields to cover the pitcher's mound & batter's box areas with a spot cover (tarp) to keep the clay from drying out. A tarp should cover these areas all year long.

Ewing: Many fields become "rock hard" during the summer. What can be one to retain moisture on fields during the summer months?

Tim: This is a great question and I hear this frequently. I first like to inspect the existing irrigation system to see if it's functioning properly. Irrigation on the infield skin and turf is critical to the safety of a baseball field. Ewing can suggest an irrigation contractor to perform any renovation work that may be necessary.

Secondly, adding a moisture retaining product can work tremendously to keep the infield soft during the summer. Adding AquaSmart along with Turface can help retain the moisture in the soil. Numerous Major League Baseball teams use these products and Ewing can help determine the appropriate soil conditioner for each site. Finally, I would encourage deep watering very early in the morning. Watering early in the morning allows the irrigation to infiltrate the infield mix, making the soil safer for ballgames.

Ewing: When is the best time of year to renovate a baseball field?

Tim: In general, the best time for a complete renovation is during the fall. I would not encourage large renovations in the spring, prior to the baseball season. If a school or park is looking for large-scale improvements, it's best to look at September. Some improvements can occur in the spring (i.e. pitcher's mound and batter's box alterations), but if you want to re-grade your infield, remove turf edges, etc. it's best to complete this in the fall. This will allow turf to germinate completely and allow for grading to settle during the winter months.

Ewing: On a limited budget, how can sports field managers amend the infield skin on a baseball/softball field?

Tim: The infield skin is one of the most important areas of a baseball field that requires constant supervision and care. If a facility has a limited budget, I recommend incorporating 1.5 - 2 Tons of Turface MVP into the top 1.5" of the playing surface. This can be done by "nail dragging" the infield skin after applying the Turface. Over time, the Turface will work it's way into the infield skin and provide moisture retention and air space (porosity) in the infield. Turface MVP also helps to reduce compaction of the infield skin, which can be dangerous if not treated promptly.

Ewing: Tim, thank you for your time and sharing some of your sports field expertiese today! If anyone has more questions, how can they learn more?

Tim: Please visit the Ewing Sports Turf webpage. It has a lot of great information on how to improve your sports turf facility. The address is www.ewingirrigation.com/athletic-fields. Also, I am happy to assist any questions that may arise. My email is tlambert@ewingirrigation.com. Thanks for having me!

TAGS: Athletic Fields, AquaSmart