7 Steps to Get Your Field Back in Action After a Rain Event

Once a rain event (better known as a “downpour” or a “major rain storm” occurs on your baseball or softball field, there are many parameters that will dictate how fast a field will be ready to resume play. Here is the shocking truth… Every situation is different and can skew the time needed for recovery in either direction. The factors that affect how fast a field will recover include:

  • The infield’s condition going into the rain event (dragged smooth or chewed-up from cleats
  • Soil makeup of the infield skin – soil stability
  • Whether the infield skin is top-dressed or not
  • Intensity and length of time rain occurred
  • Amount of rain that fell
  • The weather expected over the next 3 to 6 hours
    • sky conditions
    • humidity levels and trend
    • temperatures
    • wind speed and direction
    • chances for additional precipitation

Perhaps the most important parameter above is the humidity levels and their trend. In order for a field to improve, it needs to dry. For the soil to dry, moisture will need to evaporate out of that soil.

If humidity levels are high (above 75%), there is little room in the parcels of air floating over the field to absorb moisture out of the ground. Once humidity levels drop to 60% or lower, you can expect to see more rapid improvement, especially if you have the sun and wind working in concert with the lower humidity. If your humidity stays high, the sun and wind can only help in a very small way and progress will be very slow.

There must be room in the air to absorb that moisture.

 

The process for getting a field back open is fairly routine in most cases.

  1. DO NOT place equipment or people back onto the infield until it has firmed up enough that you will not leave depressions on the skin. This can negatively affect ball bounce and surface drainage. Quality-balanced infield soils, such as the engineered infield soils produced by DuraEdge, will ensure that you can get back onto the infield skin depression-free immediately after the rain!
  2. The first task is to remove any standing water on the skin. Do this using puddle pumps and/or puddle sponges. NEVER EVER sweep or squeegee the water off the infield, as you will move infield soil and topdressing material off with it, creating deeper low spots and bigger lips at the edge of the grass.
  3. If your infield has a topdressing, back-rake the infield using a field rake or better yet, a lute rake. The process involves walking the infield while pushing the rake, which should only fluff the topdressing to help it dry quicker. This can be also tried on non-topdressed infields. Results will be mixed. Some fields will successfully fluff, but others with high silt, fine sand and/or clay will not and will have to wait much longer to dry enough to work.
  4. At this point, add drying agent to any areas that seem to need help drying out and mix into the surface using a rake. Use drying agent sparingly as needed. Too much of a good thing is not good for the infield. Open the mound and plate tarps to see if rain got underneath either of these; they may need to be addressed with drying agent.
  5. Important: DO NOT come out with a groomer and heavily nail-drag. You just want to scarify the top ¼” or so while keeping the rest of the infield beneath it firm. This prevents the infield from getting any worse, should it begin to rain again.
  6. Continue to work the surface back-raking and eventually shifting to a steel drag mat with a leveling bar to ensure an even thickness of loose material on the surface.
  7. The field is ready for play again, once lateral stability has returned to all portions of the infield. This typically happens away from bases and players’ positions first, with those wear areas firming up last. When you plant your foot and push off or pivot, you should not slip.

This process can only be pushed along so fast. Mother Nature is in control. The foolish will try to push this process, spend a lot of money on drying agents, and likely do more harm to the infield skin than good.

Having a quality engineered soil in place will make all of this incredibly easy versus most other infield soils. Otherwise, make sure you have the proper tools, drying agent, and know-how ready for these occasions, so you are prepared for Mother Nature’s intrusions.

Paul Zwaska

Paul Zwaska

A former head groundskeeper for the Baltimore Orioles, Paul has been with Beacon Athletics for two decades. Among his many accomplishments, he authored Groundskeeper University, the first online ballfield maintenance training venue and continues to find innovative ways to help groundskeepers.

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