Preparing baseball fields for spring use
By Mike Trigg, CSFM
Most park districts and recreation facilities face spring and summer seasons packed with the games and practices of various baseball and softball programs. Thus it's essential that playing facilities be in proper condition for use. At the Waukegan (Ill.) Park District, we feel obligated to provide fields that are in the best possible condition in terms of safety and playability. It's not only important from a good customer service aspect but also in terms of potential liability issues.
No matter the level of your sports turf maintenance program, the aim is to identify and correct hazardous conditions that may exist at your facilities. The goal is to reduce the frequency and possible severity of player injury and to eliminate unnecessary accidents through proper field inspection and maintenance.
We've developed a system of daily inspections for all of our softball and baseball fields in conjunction with our daily field preparation during the spring and summer seasons. While many hazardous conditions on a playing field are visible and easily identified, other problem areas are not so obvious and often are detected only through an inspection process. The inspection process also documents proper and prudent maintenance practices should this information be needed when a liability issue is raised.
The majority of hazardous conditions can be corrected through routine maintenance procedures and are completed before field use that day. The inspections also provide a method of tracking the more difficult problem areas that will require work too extensive to be handled during the playing season. To further track conditions, we've developed an annual sports field inspection checklist.
Maintenance of Skinned Area
- Inspection of infield composition
- Leveling of worn area near bases/rubbers
- Correct buildup between turf and skinned area
Selection and Anchoring of Bases
- Base anchors correctly installed
- Inspecting pitcher rubbers and home plates
Maintenance of Fencing and Backstops
- Exposed concrete footings
- Chain-link fence properly secured
Additional Safety Considerations
- Bleacher/player benches inspection and maintenance
- Athletic field lighting inspection and maintenance
We conduct the annual inspection prior to the end of the summer playing season and identify those items needing attention. For example, there may be an infield with drainage issues that make it difficult to remove excess water following heavy rains. Because of the unpredictability of spring weather and the desire of coaches and players to begin practices as soon as weather permits, we've found it best to plan and prepare to correct these problems in the fall. Our goal is to end the fall with the ball fields in top shape to begin play the following spring.