Maintaining an infield to meet safety and playability standards is a precise science, and one of the most important aspects of caring for a baseball field. The safety of the players can hinge on the condition of the infield, and soil that is not properly maintained can greatly affect the outcome of the game. Pressure to quickly return an infield to a playable state following foul weather may sometimes lead groundskeepers to employ some unorthodox methods in drying out their infields.
A group of groundskeepers in Edmonton, Canada, are taking a lot of heat for using a (very) old-school and now-extinct technique to quickly dry the infields of their four baseball diamonds: setting them on fire. The group was prepping the fields for a baseball tournament for 10 and 11-year-olds following rainy weather. When Shop-Vacs, rakes and dry material failed to produce the desired results, they resorted to dousing the infield with a mix of gasoline and diesel and igniting it. After learning of the incident, city officials shut down the fields for environmental testing, forcing the tournament to relocate. The nonprofit sports association will also be responsible for the cost of the testing, cleanup and repairs to the fields, which could be $10,000 to $20,000. The grounds crew argued that igniting infields is a common practice in field maintenance, though Wayne Sperling, district administrator for Edmonton Little League Baseball, argued that he’s never seen it happen in the 15 years he’s been involved in the sport.
Fortunately, field care techniques are constantly evolving, and groundskeepers now have access to a plethora of equipment and products to help maintain the perfect infield. Looking for some new gear to help streamline the task of caring for your infield? Next month’s issue will feature a Product Focus on infield groomers. And, for more tips and techniques on infield maintenance, see Dan Bergstrom’s article on page 9 of this issue.