One of the groundskeeper’s most important responsibilities in maintaining a ballfield is to ensure that the infield skin is firm, yet resilient, and that the surface grade is maintained properly so there are no low spots on the skin that will hold water from rain. The infield skin should have a consistent and smooth slope away from the infield in order to quickly surface drain rainwater off the infield. The slope is managed through the daily nail dragging and float dragging of the infield skin surface.
Float dragging is the finishing portion of maintaining the infield skin surface. There are several different tools to use to give you a finished feel and look to the skin area. The common ones include the ever-popular steel mat drag, the cocoa mat drag, and the broom drag.
I’m often asked, “Which drag should I get?” The answer is somewhat complicated. The steel mat drag works on any type of infield skin. The cocoa mat drags and the drag brooms work best on topdressed or very sandy infields. But ultimately, I like to have both a steel mat and a cocoa mat or drag broom in my shed.
Because the steel mat drag I will use whenever I need to manipulate my infield material by moving soil from high spots to low spots. Then, on a topdressed field, I would also have the cocoa mat or drag broom in my shed for when I just want to hover over the infield skin to just smooth everything out without transporting any material around. It’s a small price to pay to have all your options available for maintaining your infield skin.
- Steel Mat Drag: This drag can be used in any type of soil. It is the only finish drag that will break up small soil clumps. Because of the way this drag is constructed, it transports infield material around because the steel mat drag must load up before it will drop off material. This can be used to a groundskeepers advantage to help cut down high spots and fill low spots.
- Cocoa Mat Drag: The cocoa mat should be used only on topdressed or very sandy infields. These drags are made using a dense stand of cocoa fibers embedded in a vinyl backing. Because these fibers are so dense, there is little if any transporting of infield materials. If you are towing one of these behind a vehicle, I highly recommend a leveling bar being attached in front of the cocoa drag to disperse any large piles of loose infield material or topdressing since the cocoa drag can’t grab it.
- Drag Broom: Just like the cocoa mat drag, the drag broom works best on topdressed infields and very sandy infield soils. They will not break up the soil chunks seen on heavier soil infields. Drag brooms hover over the surface, smoothing them out without transporting excess material.