With more than 30 years as a ballfield groundskeeper, including 15 years serving as the head groundskeeper for the Baltimore Orioles, a lot of people ask me, “what are your favorite day-to-day tools?”
There are several tools that get used many times in a single day, but there is no clear-cut one-size-fits-everyone answer to that question. So, to give you an idea of what groundskeepers should use from another perspective outside of my own, I am proud to present Luke Yoder, former head groundskeeper for two MLB teams — the Pirates and the Padres. Luke is now the Senior Vice President of Business Development for DuraEdge, the leading manufacturer of engineered infield soils for all levels of maintenance and play — as well as the leader with mound clays and blocks, infield topdressings and conditioners.
Luke recently took some of his valuable time to explain to me some of his favorite hand tools to use when grooming infields. Watch this video for Luke’s thoughts on ballfields tools:
Most of these 10 tools that made Luke’s list are available through Beacon Athletics.
- Soil Probe: This handy tool is something every field manager should own. It’s inexpensive and is used for checking soil moisture levels in turf or in infield skins. It can also be used for monitoring turf thatch levels, turf root health, insect activity, and turf dry spots.
- Field Scout Hand-Held Digital Moisture Meter: This tool is a more quantitative way of checking your infield skin’s soil moisture. In-fact, Luke mentions the percentages you will want to monitor for to know when to apply more water to your infield skin for optimum surface performance on a DuraEdge engineered infield soil. It’s a pricey tool, but for those who really want to be dialed into their infield skin and its moisture content, the accuracy of the Field Scout will show how their infield skin surface responds to various weather conditions.
- Adjustable Weight Nail Drag: The video shows an older model of this Beacon workhorse nail drag. The newer, redesigned 2020 model now has 4 rows of hardened steel nails for an even finer textured scarification of your infield skin. It is much better balanced and now has the capacity to hold up to 9 Beacon Field Weights for adjusting equipment pressure for optimum infield skin penetration. PRO TIP: Hook a float or finishing drag to it for an all-in-one infield skin groomer.
- The 24″ & 36″ Double-Play Rake: The best of both worlds here with the standard long tooth rake on one side of the head and the shorter and sharper short tooth rake on the opposite side. The long tooth is good for the real “bull” work of rough grading and general raking and sifting of spoils out of the soil. The short teeth are great for fine grading and finish work.
- Flexible Steel Mat Drag with Leveling Bar: Flexible steel mat drags have been around almost for as long as baseball has been. These mats can pulverize small soil clods, smooth infield skins and even drag in aerification cores and topdressings into turfgrass. The Leveling Bar, when mounted ahead of a finish drag, will do the bulk of the dirty work, shaving down medium to large piles of infield soils and topdressings and helping to level and redistribute them ahead of the drag.
- The 4′ & 6′ Pro Rigid Steel Mat Drags: Although not the ones pictured in the video, Beacon manufactures a similar design that provides the same end results. Beacon utilizes plastic lumber as a lead bar to stiffen the steel mat. The mat is elevated off the ground on the lead side of the drag mat so that only the tail end of the mat makes contact with the skin. This drag is especially beneficial when finish dragging topdressed infield skins as it displaces (transports) a minimal amount of material when in operation compared to standard steel mat drags.
- The 30″ & 48″ Lute Rake: There are lots of different lute rakes available on the market, but the key to this lute rake is the curve in the rake head. That simple improvement over the other flat lute heads improves its ability to pull larger amounts of soil on the flat edge side without excessive operator fatigue. The curve also improves the performance of this tool for back raking wet infield skins on the serrated edge, especially those using infield topdressing.
- Level Board: The level board is the best fine hand grading and leveling tool available for groundskeepers. The stainless-steel reinforced edge ensures a strong cutting edge while the relief angle on the back of the level board head allows the tool to float on the surface more easily than the back of any metal rake. The 54″ wide head improves grading and leveling on large areas. Operate it in much the same manner as a road grader operates its blade.
- Sweet Spot Tamp: There is no other tamp quite like the Sweet Spot. The articulating head on this tamp ensures that the full power of every thrust of this tool will be delivered onto the mound or home plate clay surface. The interchangeable heads provide versatility to the groundskeeper allowing him/her to choose the tamp head plate of their choice that will most effectively complete the job. The dampening system in the handle of the Sweet Spot eliminates the body jarring vibrations for a much-improved ergonomic experience for the operator. It makes tamping fun!
- Scuffle Hoe (Hula Hoe): Frequently used during edging projects on the infield or warning track edges. This hoe is also a good non-chemical weed control tool if you catch them coming up in your warning track or infield when they are young. The scuffle hoe is also useful in shaving down high spots in the clay areas on mounds and batter’s boxes provided that the clay is soft or moist enough to penetrate. If too dry, simply moisten deeply and let stand for a while before shaving the high spots.
A quick note to go with what Luke has to say about “Bolt” drags for infield scarification. Bolts are a more aggressive scarification tool that leaves behind a coarser textured infield when used. If these are used for day-to-day game day prep, you may have to deal with a “washboard” effect because of the coarse ridges and valleys left by the bolts. This is why daily nail dragging should be performed by a unit that uses nails to cut a finer textured furrow in the soil. Nail drags will not affect ball roll and hops. Save the “Bolt” drag for renovation or warning track work.