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FAQ’s about Baseball Field Design, Baseball Field Construction, & Baseball Field Renovation

What do coaches say about your Magic Mix product?

“I had the opportunity to catch my son Matt play in the South East Conference for Arkansas where many teams are using this type of material. Matt says this surface is firm but not hard, there is no glare, never a bad bounce, and truly a joy to play on.”

“I made sure the first thing that was done on both infields at the new Appleton North, WI baseball complex was to use Magic Mix. I also advised the softball program to use it, and they have. If you are looking to improve your field conditions the best way to go is with Magic Mix.”

Bruce Erickson
As a high school baseball coach, Bruce Erickson has won more games than any other coach in Wisconsin history.

How long has H&K Sports Fields been in business?

H&K Sports Fields has been in business creating sports fields since 1996.

What geographic area do you presently work in?

 H&K Sports Fields has created fields throughout the Midwest. 

When is the best time of year to fertilize the field?

This is a great question. Especially now that tight budgets are going to seem even tighter as fertilizers are becoming more expensive.

Chances are you actually don’t need much in the way of fertilizer. If your field isn’t a sand-based field (has a sand-only root zone under the grass) your soil likely already has loads of the nutrients the grass needs. If anything you may want to add a little nitrogen now and again to support root growth and wear/injury recovery.

If you have a cool-season grass (tall fescue, bluegrass and ryegrass are the most common) then you should fertilize in the fall. After the heat of summer has passed you can fertilize lightly to encourage recovery from the summer’s damage. Then you can fertilize more heavily around September – October to support root growth, which only occurs in earnest at this time of year.

If you have a warm-season grass (bermudagrass is the most common) then you can fertilize at any time once the heat of summer has kicked in. These grasses grow at a feverish pace once the hot weather starts and adding fertilizers at this time will help encourage the repair of warn areas. The better these grasses grow during the summer the better they will recovery from dormancy after the winter.

What is the difference between in the types of aeration?

The three most commonly thought of procedures when one mentions the word “aeration” are” 1) solid tine, 2) hollow tine, 3) deep tine.

1) solid tine aeration: This is most commonly performed by golf courses on their greens, especially in the heat of summer. It is the least disruptive form of aeration as well as the least effective for compaction. It’s sole purpose is to provide very temporary passages for air to circulate around the roots. It is used on golf greens (and in the southern U.S. on high maintenance sports fields) to cool the roots of heat stressed turf. It will do nothing to alleviate compaction in any sense of the longer term.

2) hollow tine aeration: This form of aeration maximizes compaction relief for the least amount of disruption to the playing surface. It is also the least expensive, easiest method to apply for the greatest amount of compaction relief. That being said, one pass each year with one of these machines is not nearly enough for any sports field receiving more than the minimum of usage.

3) deep tine aeration: Unlike the other two common aeration methods, this sort involves tines that are longer than the typical 3-4″ in length. The tines are solid and are not meant to affect the upper root zone in a field. They plunge well below the root zone and break up any layering that can develop over long term field usage. This is not a procedure that is needed on an annual basis, indeed, it is rarely called for but every few years on a low maintenance sports field.

When should we aerate our field?

Once again, we’re going to divide the answer based on the type of grass you have.

If you’re a cool-season turfgrass (tall fescue, bluegrass, rye grass) the best time to aerate is in the fall of the year. This is when the grass is best able to recover the surface damage that is inflicted as a by-product of aeration.

If you’re a warm-season turfgrass (bermudagrass) the best time of year to aerate is the summer. Again, this is when your turf is best prepared to recover from the damage you’re going to inflict on the surface during the procedure.

How often should we edge the turf?

You can edge the turf around your infield or along your warning track as often as you would like.

My only caveat on this would be to remind you that if you’re not willing to pull out your strings to be sure that your arcs curve well, or that your straight lines do not, then it isn’t likely worth your trouble.

Professional baseball groundskeepers edge a lot more often than you are likely to want to, but they also have games that are subject to thousands (hundreds of thousands and more in the major leagues) of viewers eyes.

Proper edging is done to maintain a distinct and attractive interface where the grass ends and begins. So edge enough to keep your grass from growing into the infield skin (warning track), but not so much that you increase the size of your infield (warning track). If you’ve got a cool-season grass (tall fescue, bluegrass, rye grass) this means 1 or 2 times per year, and 3 or 4 times per year with a warm-season grass (bermudagrass).

If you’ve got a tournament coming up, that’s a great excuse to take the extra time and give the field a crisp edge.

We have low areas around second position and shortstop, why does this happen?

These depressions in the infield dirt are extremely common and often are the result of poor dragging. If you only move the drag around the field in one pattern these depressions as well as some higher areas are going to develop.
Professional groundskeepers use both concentric small circles and long ovals (along the outside arc and along the baselines) to drag their infields. They also know that speed is the enemy of the skinned infield. I’m sorry to have to tell you this if you have 10+ fields to drag during your day, but the faster you take those curves the more you move the dirt around. Add to that the exact same pattern in your dragging and you’ll develop these problems each and every season.

So slow down, vary your pattern and you’ll see that these issue won’t arise quite so quickly during the year.

How do we fix the depressions once they’ve developed?

No matter how careful you are you will still, eventually develop these problem areas. That is just the nature of the beast, the infield is an awkward shape.

When these areas do become an issue the first thing you should do is brush away any top dressing from the depressions. Then either by scraping the infield dirt from the high spots (remove the top dressing here too) and moving it to the low spots, or by bringing in new infield dirt, you can rebuild height to the area.

Before adding the new dirt, however, it helps to first moisten it lightly, and scarify the area with a sharp rake. You then add the new dirt and rake the old and new together. Then use either a hand roller or the tires from your utility vehicle to compact the dirt a bit (firm, but you should still be able to get a cleat into it).

The deeper the depression, the more you will want to repeat the above steps not only to prevent over or under-filling but also to help the dirt bind well throughout the fill (preventing mid-game or practice blow outs).

How often should the grass be mowed?

I wish I could provide you with an easier answer to this question, but if you really want to be sure that its being done properly this is the only answer I can provide.

Anytime you remove more than 1/3 of the beginning length of the turf leaf you are causing too much damage to the plant. This is especially true of grasses that are under additional stresses (too cold, too warm, lots of wear). So if you like your grass around 2″ long you need to cut it before it gets taller than 3″.

So, what if the grass is growing faster than you can afford to have it cut? Then you should raise the height of the mower blades, and thus decrease the amount of turf that is removed with each mow.

If you go out to the field with a ruler and measure the grass height before and after a mow for a couple of weeks you’ll start to see that you’re likely not mowing the field often enough.

And remember, the more stress the grass is under (more use, too hot/cold, too wet/dry), the less you want to add to that by mowing improperly. Sharpening your mower’s blades more often will help to decrease the stress that mowing inflicts on the turf.

Yeah, sometimes doing all of this “properly” can be a hassle, but at the end of the day when the field looks better than it has before and plays better, for longer its really worth it.

How can we prevent the pitcher’s mound from wearing down so much?

Professional groundskeepers have the time and money to repair a pitchers mound after every use. I know that most everyone else does not have this luxury so I would recommend setting up a regular schedule for ensuring that the repairs are made. If you can get a volunteer to grab a tamp for you once a week, that would be great. If you can get the last coach of the day to fix the mound, that would be tremendous!

A couple of tips though, to make the time between your tamping last longer …

1) be sure to sweep aside the top dressing before adding your filler material (whether its infield dirt or clay that you’ll be adding).

2) both the material you’re adding and that to which you’re adding should be lightly moistened to increase bonding between the two layers (the better they bond, the less flaking and “chunking” will occur during mound use).

3) don’t fill in the hole(s) in one fell swoop, add a little material and tamp it, then scarify it again and add some more. This practice will allow you to evenly firm up all of the added material, again discouraging flaking and chunking out.

How can we prevent “lips” from appearing between the turfgrass and the infield skin areas?

2-3 times during a season you can take a hose with a strong, stream nozzle and blow the dirt that has migrated into the grass back into the infield areas (don’t forget home plate). You don’t want to create ruts in the infield while doing this, so don’t get overzealous, but if you’re fairly aggressive you will save thousands in renovation costs over the years as well as protecting the kids from unnecessary injury. Be sure to blow the dirt out from 6-10″ behind the turfgrass line.
Another chore that will help prevent the lip build up takes 1 person 15 minutes to complete or 3-5 people less than 5 minutes and requires only a leaf rake (the plastic ones work best and reduce injury to the grass). A cursory sweep around the grass/dirt interfaces will help to move any larger chunks back to the infield where they can be reintegrated to the surface when the field is dragged.

If you can only pick one of these practices, then use the hose, but both together will really give those lips the one-two punch.