BY LUKE YODER
Fewer rainouts, reduced injuries, reliable hops, less maintenance are all achievable in your current venue. It won’t happen overnight, but improved consistency in your field quality is possible in the near term. Getting there means getting real about what’s being done to your field by nature and your grounds crew. The next step is customizing products and processes that deliver your best field. Whether you’re just getting started or reached a stumbling point in your current plan, infield migration and rain repair are two of the biggest issues you will need to address.
Infield Migration Issues
No matter how well you treat your field, traditional infield mixes have migration issues due to rain, wind, dragging, and players.
Wind and Rain
Wind and rain are primary sources of erosion and migration. A nasty storm not only means a delay in play, but also a massive amount of work to repair field damage. Migration from rain can cause gully washes that leave voids and both wind and rain push your meticulously laid material into the grass, creating a lip. Additional infield material and labor are required to fill the voids and remove material to level the lip. It’s a cycle of fixing and raining. Skipping post-rain/wind maintenance isn’t an option even when your schedule is tight. The lip can prevent water from shedding properly, but even more concerning is the danger it poses to players from tripping and bad hops.
You work all off season to provide a top-quality field for the start of the season. Fast forward a few short weeks and all that works seems to have disappeared. Your position areas take an especially hard hit due to high levels of play. They become chewed up from cleats and sliding and form a low area. The bulk of the game happens in these key areas and keeping them level and consistent is vital to safety and reliable play.
We can’t control the reasons migration occurs, but we can show you how to create a surface that stays in place, is easy to maintain, and has your field playable in as little as 4 hours after a major rain event.
First, let’s look at how things are typically done.
Impact of Rain Repair on Infield Surfaces
No matter your level of play, the end goal is to have your infield surface playable as quickly as possible after a significant rain event. On traditional surfaces the post-rain schedule looks something like this:
1. Opening up the top surface
2. Applying conditioner
3. Dragging in
In some cases, this process is repeated until the service is deemed playable. When this
technique is performed on a repetitive basis, it compromises the integrity of the infield profile
due to an excessive amount of conditioner. The grade is also compromised when
the surface is worked too deep. Another common practice is to squeegee water out of low areas in an attempt to make the surface playable. Over time, this worsens the quality of the field and can actually increase drying time.
Creating a Migration Resistant Field
Migration is a costly, but widely accepted headache of field management. But, it doesn’t have to be. Not on your field. The annual 25-ton material dump, the long hours of repair, the endless cycle of dragging and resurfacing, it can all be put to bed with the right infield mix and proper moisture management. Here’s how to do it.
Benefits of Moisture Management
A significant amount of your time, thought, and resources are likely dedicated to moisture management. Too much, too little – it’s a delicate balance. A surface that’s too wet is difficult for your players and can lead to injury due to slick conditions and poor footing. When the surface becomes hard due to lack of moisture, the field begins to chunk out. Your players will leave potholes instead of cleat marks in the surface. The ball also takes a quicker bounce. This is a common problem with local or native infield materials as they tend to break up more as the game is played. This can lead to inconsistent hops and unnecessary injuries.
Proper moisture management will reduce or even eliminate these issues. When you have mastered moisture control, each time the ball hits the surface, even with topspin, it will check up instead of appearing to speed up when the ball goes from the grass to the dirt. More importantly, the ball takes a consistent hop because if it hits a cleat mark compared to a pothole the ball stays true. Further, at the right moisture level, you will reduce migration as your surface will stay in place longer and hold up to wear and tear.
The Corkboard Effect
When a profile has consistent moisture throughout and is properly compressed, the corkboard
effect comes into play. If you’ve reached the right balance, you can insert a knife or key into your profile and easily remove it without the material breaking apart or chipping out. This simulates a player’s cleat or spike. If you pass the key test, then your players will leave cleat marks instead of foot marks or potholes that can lead to a bad hop. Your surface will also have a corky feel. When you press your thumb into it and it should leave a small indentation. If your field meets the corkboard test, it will respond better to regular play. Getting and maintaining the proper moisture level comes down to science.
Infield Migration Solutions
Most local or native infield mixes do not have the proper balance of sand, clay, and silt to hold
onto moisture properly. Proper silt to clay ratios is essential for this along with the proper sand. The way to achieve the right ratios to manage moistures is with engineered soils. Engineered soils provide customization for environmental conditions that aren’t possible with traditional products. DuraEdge products are customized to manage the moisture levels and conditions of your particular field. The unique mineralogy clay in a DuraEdge surface reacts to water differently. The reduced pore space enables our surfaces to hold onto moisture longer and become playable much quicker. DuraEdge also provides certified installation to ensure proper application and a customized maintenance plan – so you aren’t going it alone. With proper installation and maintenance your field can be playable just four hours after a 1” rain event with just mound and home plate tarps.
Long-term Moisture and Field Maintenance Solutions
By solving the moisture management problem, you can reduce the troubles and costs related to migration. With DuraEdge, your field will remain playable with a streamlined maintenance plan and require less replacement material each year – just edge work and position area touch up. The end result is less migration, a corky field, improved safety and reduced costs and rainouts. Your field will play down, stay put and be consistent game after game while cutting maintenance costs and headaches. It’s how DuraEdge delivers a straightforward solution for a quality field year after year.