SportsField Management’s Editor In Chief Rob Meyer discusses the rampant problems with the new artificial turf in Toronto’s Rogers Centre — home of Major League Baseball’s Blue Jays — in this column, exclusively for SportsFieldMangementMagazine.com
It hasn’t been a smooth ride for the new turf at Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays, both literally and figuratively.
This past offseason, new AstroTurf 3D Xtreme was installed in the facility, but through about seven weeks of the season thus far, complaints and issues have been rampant.
The first complaint came from the Baltimore Orioles. After the Blue Jays defeated the Orioles on April 23, Eduardo A. Encina, reporter from The Baltimore Sun, tweeted “#Orioles left #Toronto thinking new Rogers Centre turf is major problem. Too spongy, slow & lots of untrue hops. … In fact, there was consideration by #Orioles of not playing Tues. night, especially after Paredes was hurt on bad hop. O’s have contacted MLB.” The incident to which Encina is referring occurred April 21, when Orioles infielder Jimmy Paredes took a ground ball to the face after a bad hop (Paredes was fine afterwards).
The New York Yankees made the next complaint that made national news. On May 5, NewJersey.com reported that in the third inning of the game between the Yankees and Blue Jays on May 4, a Toronto hitter ripped a grounder to Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius that seemed to get noticeably slower with each bounce with a runner on first. Gregorius initiated a double play, throwing the ball to second base for the first out. But the following throw to first to get the Toronto runner wasn’t in time. That was likely because the ball took much longer than it would have elsewhere to get to Gregorius. “You could tell,” Gregorius told NewJersey.com. “It’s so much slower. I had [Toronto players] telling me, ‘Watch out,’ and to charge the ball more because you’re going to need to.”
Yahoo Sports published a report in mid-April where it was said that (via a Fox Sports reporter) Major League Baseball was “actively monitoring the turf situation at Rogers Centre” as it was evident in early April games that the new turf — noticeably softer than the previous version — was slowing down ground balls and causing some unpredictable bounces on these ground balls and infield hits.
According to the Yahoo Sports report, an Astroturf official maintains the turf will firm up over time, but it could take several months.
Since opening 26 years ago, Rogers Centre (formerly known as SkyDome) has gone through five kinds of turf. The Blue Jays have entered a research project agreement with the University of Guelph aimed at getting natural grass into Rogers Centre. The team is planning to have grass in the stadium in time for the 2018 season.
It seems that in Toronto, 2018 can’t come soon enough.