Over the next few posts, we'll cover several topics involving in-season softball and baseball field maintenance. The topics are:
- Part 1 - Infield Skinned Area
- Part 2 - Moisture Management
- Part 3 - Mounds and Batters Boxes & Grass Edges
- Part 4 - Turf Care - Mowing, Irrigation, Aeration
- Part 5 - Turf Care - Fertilization, Weed Control
Infield Skinned Area
When it comes to infield skinned area maintenance, the goal of every ball field manager should be consistency. Consistent firmness, moisture and smoothness is the key to a quality playing surface.
Firmness - Too Hard? Too Soft?
Hard skinned area surfaces play fast, soft infield surfaces play slow. At the college and pro level, infielders prefer a very firm surface. They normally want a very firm base with a layer of conditioner on top of the base material. Whereas little leaguers need a softer and slower surface. Girls softball infielders would rather play on a softer infield surface as well.
The composition of your infield mix determines how firm you can get the playing surface. Infield dirt is a mixture of sand, silt and clay. The higher the clay content (around 20%) the more firmness can be achieved. If the mix has less than 10% clay, then it is much more difficult to get the soil to firm up.
If the skinned area is too hard, wet the area down thoroughly with a hand-held hose and allow to soak in. When it is dry enough to get on the surface with an infield groomer, nail drag the skinned area in several directions. Add weight to the drag for added aggressiveness. Then mat drag to smooth the surface.
If the skinned area is too soft, wet the area down thoroughly and allow to soak in. Drag with a steel-link mat. Add weight to help compact the soil. If the sand content is too high or if the clay content is too low the soil may need to be modified. One remedy may be to add light layers of heavier clay soil and mix into the the soil profile until the right mix is achieved.
Every year or two it may be necessary to till the infield. This will bring some of the clay back to the surface. This process will help the surface to firm up. Allow several weeks of wetting and mat dragging to get the surface "settled" and ready for play.
Next time we'll discuss some ways that groundskeepers can effectively manage moisture on their infield skinned areas. Until then...
Got your own proven tips and tricks? Share your own experiences by leaving a comment regarding infield skinned area maintenance.