Calcined Clay Conditioner: Maximizing the Benefits (Part 1)

WRITTEN BY: Luke Yoder

If you remember back to our previous blog, we covered amending your infield based on science and recent innovation vs. tilling in calcined clay conditioner (CCC) as a cure all. This brings me to discuss what CCC is most beneficial for when implementing best maintenance practices on your infield skin.

CCC has been utilized in our industry for almost 60 years. Today there are more infields with CCC than without. It has no doubt become an industry standard on an international level. When utilized with best practices, CCC provides a safer sliding surface, increases the efficacy of your moisture management and can be used as a tool to apply as a drying agent to quickly soak up standing water on your surface after a rain event. 

There is no doubt that any infield will perform at its best with ideal moisture and compression. Put those together and you will have your best chance at a clean cleat in and cleat out (of course this is easier said than done).

What does this look like, you may be asking?

Well, the compression should be close to 85-90% and the moisture levels around 26-32% in the top inch. Different moisture meters may vary, but these are based on a calibrated spectrum.

How can one achieve this?

Keep CCC just on the top 1/8” of the surface and let it go to work for you.  Proper compaction requires occasional rolling with sufficient moisture in your profile. An even layer of CCC across the top enables you to roll across the surface under ideal moisture conditions without the clay sticking to the drum. I’m not saying it is impossible to do so without CCC, but it surely extends that window of opportunity. Once you have proper compression with the ideal moisture, it is just a matter of keeping it there. As long as the profile does not dry down past an inch, there is typically no need to roll unless you have a problematic native material surface. If you allow the entire profile to dry out then you will have to flood the infield and roll the next day to get back to those conditions. An example: at the Padres we rolled once before each homestand and then maintained proper moisture until the road trip.  

Other cultural practices that should be performed on a regular basis are also complimented by CCC.

Nail dragging is one of the most beneficial cultural practices. In order to achieve desired results of nail dragging, your infield surface should have sufficient moisture. Without CCC your nail drag would clump up and leave streaks on your surface. CCC will minimize the clumping up of the clay and allow it to flow freely through the nails. CCC also increases the efficacy of screen dragging which is the most common maintenance practice performed on an infield.  

How does CCC create a safer sliding surface?

CCC reduces the friction of an athlete coming into the bag. When sliding into a hard / bare surface there is more friction. CCC provides a more forgiving surface to slide on. Consider adding an extra layer of CCC into these areas prior to your game. This will also allow you to add additional moisture to these spots which will soften them up a bit and decrease the “bite” or impact of the athlete sliding into the bag. 

Next, in Part 2, we will follow up on which CCC in the market makes the most sense from a performance and financial standpoint. We will also break down the myths behind “What is in the Bag?” 

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