The mound and plate areas see the most action in a baseball or softball game and that is why they sustain the highest wear on a ballfield. To keep that wear at a minimum, many turn to the binding power of clay. The success of that strategy depends on three things:
- The quality of mound clay you use.
- How well it is installed.
- How well it is maintained.
First, let’s look at the selection of clay products Beacon offers to help you achieve your goal. We have three shredded bagged clay products and one unfired clay brick product. The unfired clay brick is used primarily in mound construction and renovation. It is normally not convenient to use for everyday repairs at the mound and plate. The advantage of the brick in construction and renovation is that the brick is already fully compacted so there is much less tamping and rolling involved compared with using shredded bagged clay. Beacon offers the new and revolutionary DuraEdge ProLoc Mound Blocks. These unfired clay bricks are the standard 4″ x 8″ x 2-1/2″ size but the bricks have 10° wedge angles on the long sides of the brick. When placed snuggly against each other and tamped, the bricks meld together more easily because the seams overlap each other instead of butting up vertically against each other. The bricks quickly form a solid mass of clay with little or no seams or gaps once compacted in. The ProLoc bricks come in bags of 8 bricks with 38 bags on a pallet for a total of 304 bricks/pallet. The bags help to keep the unfired bricks properly hydrated before use.
We also carry all three of the bagged shredded mound clays offered by DuraEdge, starting with the DuraPitch Premium Mound Clay. This product typically has clay content in the mid-30% range and is good for recreational and some High School fields. With the lower clay content in this premium product, it is best used where all rubber and plastic cleats are being used. Those types of cleats are typically blunt ended and can act like small tamps further compacting the clay areas. Subsequently these areas can get very hard and slippery, especially with real high clay content mound clay, so stick with the lower clay content mound clays for these situations.
The other two shredded and bagged mound clays are the DuraPitch Professional Mound Clay with clay content in the range of about 55-65% and the Blackstick black gumbo clay that has the highest level of bonding power of all mound clays on the market. Blackstick is highly coveted by those who work at the professional level. Both of these clays do an outstanding job of limiting wear in the mound and at the plate from metal cleats. The better the moisture content, the less wear you will encounter. These two high-end clays are meant for college and professional levels, or any facility that has the manpower, knowledge and resources to manage these high-end materials. All of the shredded, bagged clays come premoistened and ready to use right out of the bag.
We need to address proper use of these materials. If they are not installed or maintained properly, any of these clays can fail in their performance. There are specific things you MUST do to ensure successful performance. Clay requires moisture as water is the glue that holds this soil together. For that reason, clay areas should always be covered when not in use. This means either using a tarp over the entire mound and plate areas or, at a very minimum, hitting and pitching mats covering just the actual clay areas of the mound and plate. These are used to stop evaporation of water out of the clay when not being used. Whenever the clay areas are open, mother nature is sucking the moisture out of the clay. Depending on the weather, some days it’ll dry much faster than others. After the mound or plate areas have been open for games or practices, repair should occur at some point before the next use.
The basic steps for repairing clay are as follows:
- Pull back loose topdressing and soils from the wear areas.
- Cut down any visibly high areas and then finish by sweeping the holes clean.
- Wet the sides and bottom of all holes and low areas enough to make the existing clay good and tacky.
- Add new shredded clay to the low holes and low areas that you previously wetted.
- Tamp down new clay, add additional if low. If new clay is too high, cut down with a sharpened iron rake.
- Retamp after shaving down high spots, then proceed to rehydrate the entire clay area and allow to soak in.
- Finish by recovering the area with existing or new topdressing and finish grooming.
- Apply one final coat of water to the entire mound or plate area and cover with tarp or mats.
Check your mound slope several times during the season with a mound slope gauge to make sure you are filling all of the large shallow low spots and that you are not creating high areas where you have been regularly patching the worn clay.
By using top quality DuraEdge clay materials and routinely applying proper care of your mound and plate areas, you can provide your teams the best possible surfaces to hit and pitch from. For more tips on managing mound and plate areas, check out Beacon’s Groundskeeper University to further your crew’s knowledge of field maintenance.