Get Your Field of Dreams Ready for the Season
Posted by: Erika Green on March 20, 2016
The Field of Dreams wasn’t always a pristine field roamed by the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson. It started out as an unruly cornfield. Remember all the mowing, leveling, seeding, and watering Ray had to do to transform that cornfield into a playable surface?
With Spring Training in full swing, you may already be thinking about those warm summer days watching your kids play ball. But then reality sets in. That field you’re envisioning? Right now, it’s looking a lot less like a Field of Dreams and more like this.
After a long cold winter, getting your field into game shape requires a variety of tools, materials, and expertise. One of the most common problems that surfaces over the winter is standing water. This could take the form of:
- Puddles that have formed on the playing surface that have stayed there for weeks
- Uneven surfaces due to soil buildup
- Incorrect grades for the pitcher’s mound, backstop and base paths
Rather than simply draining the water, only to see it reoccur after the next big storm, fix the root cause of the problem using a Terex RO70T Skid Steer from Compact Power Equipment Rental.
The first step is to perform a topographic survey including identifying the elevations of the outfield, infield, home plate, dugouts, mound, fences, and catch basins. Using a level, you can do this yourself or hire a professional surveyor. During the survey, you may realize that you have a common problem - the outfield is higher than the infield, causing water to pool in the infield.
If this is the case, determine if the puddles are due to rain or snowmelt, or if parts of the field were underwater for any length of time over the winter. If the latter, use the skid steer to push up the silt that’s left over and haul it away before moving on.
Once you’ve cleared away any excess silt, start leveling the infield so that it drains only the water that falls on it and not the water from the outfield as well. Your infield should be the highest point of the field to ensure adequate water drainage. For baseball and softball fields, the percentage of slope is about 0.5 percent from the infield to the outfield, and 1.5 to 2 percent from the infield dirt to the outfield fences. You can use a laser leveler to do this or ask a professional surveyor.
The next step is to scarify the existing soil to prepare it for the additional infield soil mix (typically clay, silt and sand) you will need to add. Use a scarifying rake or partner with a professional to loosen the top ¼” to ½” layer of material at the surface of the infield. If you go any deeper, you may create too loose of a surface, compromising the traction that the ballplayer desires. Too much loose material at the surface will also affect the playability of a ground ball as excess loose infield soil can cause bad hops. Similarly, be sure to avoid scarifying too close to the edge of the outfield as this can create dangerous lips where the grass meets the infield. Hand rake these areas.
Next, use the skid steer to bring in the new soil you need to raise the grade to the proper level. After putting down the new soil, use the scarifying rake to ensure the new soil is integrated and ready for play. By creating the proper slope in your infield and leveling the dirt properly, you can ensure adequate drainage and eliminate those puddles that can easily turn a rain delay into a cancellation. Using a Terex Skid Steer turns this job into an easy day-long project and creates a safer, more effective field for all who play on it.