This is part two in our series covering several topics involving in-season softball and baseball field maintenance. The topics are:
It seems that any skinned area surface is always at its best the day after a rain. The reason for this is because of consistent and thorough wetting of the surface. Once the season begins, daily wetting of the skinned areas is crucial. Clay soils swell when when wet and shrink when dry. Hardness and softness of the playing surface affects the bounce of the ball. To get the same consistent bounce from day to day, keep the moisture content consistent. All of the professional groundskeepers will make multiple applications of water on their skinned areas during the course of a day. On a warm sunny day one watering is bare minimum. Twice - one in the morning and one in the afternoon - will greatly improve infield performance.
Installation of Diamond Pro or one of the calcined clay products will dramatically help with moisture management. Vitrified and calcined clay products (like Diamond Pro) absorb 1/3 to 1/2 their weight in water. When these products are installed on the skinned area, they help slow down evaporation of the moisture while providing an improved surface that does not stick to the players cleats.
A steel mat drag is the primary tool for grooming and smoothing skinned infields. Stiff-bristled brooms, cocoa mats and carpet boards also do a nice job. Pay particular attention to the areas around the bases. As low spots develop in these high traffic areas, use mound clay to bring them up to proper grade. Tamp the mound clay firm and then apply conditioner back over the top. Use this same process for other high traffic spots on the skinned area. If deep divots and gouges occur due to playing on a wet field, it will be necessary to nail drag to open up the soil. Allow soil to dry out and then mat drag.
If you need to fix ruts and deep divots, fold the steel mat drag into thirds. This will stiffen the mat so it will cut the high spots and fill the low spots. For everyday smoothing, roll the mat all of the way out.
A tight oval drag pattern is the most aggressive method of dragging. Dragging in this pattern at high speeds will ruin the grade of the skinned area. Drive slowly. For daily mat dragging, use a figure eight pattern and slow way down when you make a turn.
Next we'll discuss pitchers mounds and batters box maintenance, as well as how to maintain the grass edges on your infield. Until then...
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