It’s hard to believe but spring is already more than two-thirds complete. How’s your field holding up so far?
Baseball and softball fields across the country are in full swing. We have customers running youth leagues everywhere (as far away as Alaska!), and these leagues are our most diverse group of customers. And by diverse I mean that every single league is different in how they are managed, how they acquire players, how they fundraise, purchase equipment, select coaches, and how they manage and maintain their playing fields.
Keep Your Players Safe.
Managing the fields can be a daunting and difficult task for a board member or league, especially if your field is exclusively managed by coaches and volunteers (besides the occasional drag, chalk, and mow from a local park and rec department). Lots of Park and Rec’s have amazing ballpark facilities that are managed with great care and detail. BUT it’s still the responsibility of the league or coach to maintain the safety and play-ability of the field.
Are you one of those guys who keeps a rake and shovel in your trunk?
I’m writing this for you! No one wants to see a 9 year old infielder take a bad hop, especially when you’re trying to teach them the importance of staying down on the ball. These basic tools don’t require gasoline, water or a big budget. Every baseball league and softball league should have these affordable, essential, baseball field maintenance tools in their shed. Every volunteer should know the basics of how to properly use these field maintenance tools. (See our article on 10 Common Groundskeeping Mistakes.) You might even be able to find a few of these taking up space in your own personal tool shed or garage.
The 8 Essential Ballfield Tools Are:
1. The Field Rake
We all know this one. The field rake is used before and after practice or games to rake out cleat marks and divots, knock down high spots and pull material to low spots (Generally position and sliding areas).
* TIP: Always rake down the base line towards the base or home parallel with the edges, never rake towards the infield grass. Raking towards edges will cause lips that affect the roll of the ball and cause a natural dam which in turn will hold water.
2. The Push Broom and/or Leaf Rake
A push broom or rake should be used fairly often to push out material from your edges. Often times during games material from the field is kicked or tracked into the edges. This comes mostly from 1st and 3rd base players moving into the grass for certain situations. It’s also very common around baselines from runners rounding the bases. A lot of these chunks of material can be picked up by hand and thrown back on the field to rake but the material you can’t see that is slowly building up is what you need to be concerned with.
3. The Rigid Steel Mat Drag
A hand drag is essential for grooming your field after it is raked out. It helps pull material from those high spots knocked down with the rake and redistribute the material to the low spots. If you have enough time drag the field twice in 2 opposite directions. Preferably ending with the circle drag. Take your time when dragging and avoid getting any closer than 6” from cutouts and edges. Those areas can be manicured more carefully with a broom or level board. If you have an uneven surface grade try and start in the high area of the field and end in the low are where you see the most standing water after a rainfall.
4. The Nail Drag
Not all nail drags require a lot of storage room or a machine to pull them and we offer a few. Even if you can only nail drag once or twice a week you will see a difference. The nail drag should be used before the mat drag. They have teeth (nails) which allow you to aggressively scarify the surface. It helps tremendously if you can nail drag after the field has received some moisture. Not so much moisture that it sticks to the drag and makes a mess but just enough that you can easily loosen heavily compacted areas without going any deeper than 1”. Complete the nail drag process with level boards or rakes to pull loose material in your low spots and then finish with a nice and slow hand drag. * TIP: Rigid mat drags that do not flex work much better in this situation than non-rigid drags.
5. A Good Shovel
A good scoop shovel is used to scoop up debris and chunks from the piles swept from the edges, mound and plate. The one shown below has a sifter feature, but any sturdy shovel will do.
6. A Tamp
A tamp is required to pack clay back into batters boxes and the mound after they have been damaged. If your park and rec dept. or the managers of your facility are not repairing these areas you will need to figure out a way to keep these spots safe from holes that form after use. If your league or team does not have the ability to acquire bagged clay, correctly repair the areas and tarp them, we have alternatives. Products like the Beacon porous rubber mats or the Jox Box can be easily installed below grade in these areas to minimize damage and prevent holes. All you have to do is drag your material back over the exposed mats at the end of your game or practice.
* TIP: If you’re using clay it’s imperative that you cover these areas with area tarps to help them hold their moisture. If tarping is not an option the clay will harden and chunk out.
7. The Dig Out Tool
No one likes a wobbly base. Always make sure to have some digout tools around to clean out your base anchors before you put them down and after they are removed. Make sure to keep plugs on hand for when you drag the field. If you are scared of them going missing toss them in a bag and keep them next to your hand drag.
Put someone in charge of managing the volunteers and coaches. Coordinate a field training day where coaches are all required to attend and learn the basics. This will provide your field with some consistent maintenance and achieve a more uniformed play so the players know what to expect. * TIP: Our Groundskeeper University is now a free service that we offer on our website. It’s a great program that teaches the basics of field care and maintenance through online videos and short quizzes between sections.