With spring training just around the corner, let’s take a look at one of the most important aspects of any baseball diamond: the infield. Considering that about 70 percent of the game takes place on the infield, choosing the right soil mix and maintaining the proper amount of moisture are crucial to preventing bad hops and protecting the players. There are a variety of products on the market to help field care pros maintain the ideal infield; read on to see what some of the industry’s leading manufacturers have to say about infield maintenance.

Clay Hubbs, Stabilizer Solutions

The dynamics of the sport of baseball provide special considerations for field managers. An infield needs load-bearing strength to support forward running motion, sheer strength to support side-to-side motion, and enough moisture to prevent player injury. Hubbs, director of operations for Stabilizer Solutions and a former groundskeeper for the Arizona Diamondbacks, says to determine if an infield will provide the correct support for the players its intended for, field managers have to look at particle size. For example, professional athletes require higher load bearing and sheer strength than Little League athletes.

“There’s been a whole lot of research done on running tracks, and they found that the proper stiffness on a running track can increase a runner’s speed by 3 percent while reducing injuries. We want to achieve that on a baseball field as well,” Hubbs said.

Once you’ve chosen the proper mix, maintenance comes in to play. According to Hubbs, there are four factors that are important to maintaining the perfect infield, “moisture, moisture, moisture … and water.”

Research studies that Stabilizer Solutions conducted with MIT found that the ideal moisture content for an infield is between 4 and 12 percent. To help maintain moisture while reducing maintenance, Stabilizer Solutions’ infield mixes are premixed with Stabilizer, an organic powder that maintains the bond between soil particles while absorbing excess water, providing a firm and consistent playing surface. The Pro Red infield mix can be customized with the optimal sand, silt and clay ratio for your application.

Go to www.stabilizersolutions.com to learn more.

Jeff Langner, Turface Athletics

Turface Athletics has been an industry leader in developing soil conditioners for decades. In fact, they’ll be celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. Langner, brand manager for the company’s Turface line of conditioners and mound products, says that over the years, infield conditioners have evolved from simple puddle prevention products to complex, scientific formulations.

Langner said, “The biggest evolution is that we’ve gone from just surface water management to truly how do we create a moisture reservoir? How do we use these materials to have a balance throughout the infield mix?”

Turface Athletics has developed a range of soil conditioners designed to help keep infields safe and playable at all levels of play. One of its newest products, Turface Pro League Heritage Red, helps make any field look like a pro field. Once made exclusively for the MLB, the cherrywood-colored infield conditioner helps improve ball visibility, and the small, uniform particle size helps reduce bad hops. Turface Pro League absorbs its weight in water to prevent puddling, and later releases moisture back to the infield mix.

Langner stressed that understanding the makeup of your infield is key to properly maintaining it.

“You’ve got to understand the characteristics of infield soils. How does sand behave? How does clay behave? What does silt do in the mix? Understanding those properties, both good and bad, can guide you in the direction as far as what you want your infield composition to be.”

Visit www.turface.com to learn more.

David Stern, GameTime Sports Systems

Stern, vice president of sales and development for Game Time Sports Systems, said that when selecting an infield mix, sports field managers should look at clay, silt and sand content, and choose a mix with a high percentage of clay. Game Time offers a variety of Louisville Slugger infield mixes designed to prevent bad hops and minimize the amount of maintenance required. While playability and safety are the main factors to consider when selecting a soil, the right mix can also add to the beauty of your field.

“Depending on what clay you use, you can give your field tremendous aesthetic value,” Stern said.

He noted that over time, infield soils have improved due to the addition of additives, and the company has quite a few to offer. Game Time’s Louisville Slugger Game Time H2O/ABZORB is an absorbent/calcined clay product to help quickly dry puddles and muddy conditions. The company’s pitcher’s mound/batter’s box clay offers high clay content and an appealing natural red color.

For more information on Game Time Sports Systems, visit www.gametimesportssystems.com.

Tom Burns, Diamond Pro

So, with all of the advancements in soil technology and new products available for sports field managers, what’s the secret to maintaining the perfect infield? Burns, who works in sales for Diamond Pro, said it’s not that simple.

“That all depends on what the definition of perfect is. Player safety should be the first priority in maintaining an infield. A proper grade that is smooth and consistent will enhance safety and drainage. Lip maintenance and edging on a regular schedule will help your field drain properly and play safely. The number one factor is to maintain the proper surface grade, everything else comes after that,” he said,

Diamond Pro offers a variety of infield soil mixes, mound products and infield conditioners. The Professional Vitrified Infield Conditioner features clean, consistent gradation and is available in specialty colors, Professional-grade calcined clay helps to improve drainage without sticking to cleats,

While the new options in soils and conditioners have helped make the field manager’s job a little easier, Burns says maintaining a perfect infield ultimately comes down to hard work.

“There is no substitute for dedication to the craft and the responsibility to a safe playing surface for players, regardless of the age or skill level.”

For more information, visit www.diamondpro.com.

Dave Cygan, Pro’s Choice

The rise in popularity of youth sports over the past few decades has brought higher field quality expectations. The dry, hard Little League infields of 30 years ago would never meet the playability standards of today. Fortunately, the advent of infield conditioners has allowed field managers at all levels of play to provide safe surfaces.

Cygan, director of sales for Pro’s Choice, said, “Most park and rec facilities don’t get to pick their infield surface, and are forced to work with low-grade mixes. With the introduction of conditioners such as Pro’s Choice, we can amend all surfaces to drain better and play safely by being able to manage soil moisture.”

Pro’s Choice Red and Pro’s Choice Select soil conditioners can be used in field construction or as topdressing to eliminate compaction and improve playing surfaces. Rapid Dry drying agent can be used to dry up puddles and slick spots after rain. The company also produces mound and batter’s box clay.

Cygan emphasizes that while there are many products on the market that can help cut down on maintenance, infields still require plenty of attention to stay playable.

“Daily maintenance is important – dragging practices (not going too fast or too close to the edges, so as to not build up lips), managing moisture. You don’t want a field that is too hard and dry. Maintain your lips, try to get out daily either with a broom, backpack or rake, and bring clay clumps back into the skinned area and off your turf.”

Visit www.proschoice1.com to learn more about Pro’s Choice Products.