A look at the ins and outs of infield soils

With about 70 percent of a baseball game taking place on the infield, selecting the proper soil mix is imperative to playability. Here’s a look at the ins and outs of infield soils.

Stabilizer Solutions

Advancements in soil science have led to the development of new formulations designed to meet the needs of field managers challenged by heavy use.

Clay Hubbs, director of operations for Stabilizer Solutions (http://www.stabilizersolutions.com), said, “While having the correct particle size on your infield to begin with is important, water (or lack of) changes the stability of any field, regardless of particle size. In engineering terms, the load bearing and shear strength of the infield will increase and decrease with varying amounts of moisture. That is why Waterless Infield Mixes are perhaps the most exciting advancement in soil technology. Further breakthroughs in research and development replace moisture all together with patented polymer technology.”

The company’s new Stabilizer Ballyard Brown was created through a collaborative effort with two professional groundskeepers. Engineered with a high Ballyard Clay content for the greater load bearing and shear strength demands of higher levels of play, the mix is enhanced with Stabilizer Water Binding Technology to minimize downtime and reduce maintenance. Its unique particle size ensures this mix can be used as an amendment to add clay content, coarse sand content and Stabilizer to existing infields without creating a layering effect.

Mar-Co Clay

One of the most important considerations for managing infields is water management, so finding a mix that allows adequate percolation is crucial to playability.

Washington Ball Mix, from Mar-Co Clay (http://www.marcoclay.com) is a professional-looking red clay formulated to provide moisture control and help reduce injuries from sliding.

Mar-Co Clay Vice President of Sales and Marketing Dale Horst said, “Washington Ball Mix by Mar-Co Clay is preconditioned to retain moisture, as well as allow for excessive rains to pass through.” He added that the mix, “addresses the trend toward consistent, premixed infield solutions that groundskeepers require to manage water.”

Mar-Co also offers 15 and 20 Series mixes formulated for professional and semi-professional fields. Both are available in firm, standard and light mixes. The company also creates custom blends upon request.

Southern Athletic Fields, Inc.

The key to formulating an ideal infield mix is determining the proper ratio of its components: sand, silt and clay.

According to Steve Dodson, inside sales for Southern Athletic Fields, Inc. (http://www.safdirt.com), “The ‘hot’ term being used now is SCR (silt to clay ratio). The SCR should be .5 to 1.0. This is determined by dividing the clay percentage into the silt percentage. Highly maintained infield soils have a higher silt and clay content. Keep in mind as the silt and clay decrease or increase that the SCR remains within range.

Southern Athletic Fields’ Mar Mix infield mix consists of a naturally found red sand/clay blend and is screened at .25 inch. The mix allows water to percolate after rain events, and works well with MuleMix field conditioners and amendments. Dodson notes that the red color is an important aspect of the mix because it gives the infielders a contrast to see the ball more effectively during play.

When selecting an infield mix, Dodson encourages field managers to consider all factors. “The infield skin is your foundation. Study your options and look at all the variables to make a sound decision for the safety of your players.”