For a long time we have mentioned our plans to make structural and cosmetic improvements to Tobey Baseball Field.
During the past 3 months, Tobey Field has been over scheduled with a steady dose of both adult and youth baseball leagues. In the meantime, we have had to endure one of the top 5 hottest summers in history, in Memphis.
Finally when Labor day weekend holiday approached and the special event was cancelled, a quick decision was made to order a load of “infield Mix” from the nearest distributor out of Jackson, TN. Arrangements were made for the sand-clay mix to be delivered on Friday, September 2nd.
Over the past couple of weeks, we have been prepping the dirt base paths and perimeter edges of the grass next to the infield dirt to try to reduce the raised lips that have occasionally caused hit balls to react to these un-maintained obstacles.
Typical raised edge
When consulting with Judson Belote on what he recommended, he suggested using high pressure water from the Tobey high volume hose to force the dirt and thatch build-up in these critical areas. By reducing these raised humps, we would effectively reduce the amount of replacement fill dirt to level these locations for a more level playing field. As some of you have experienced, fielding live balls in these areas can be dangerous.
So prior to the last games played in August, the inside edge running from Home to First base was completed. Being our first attempt, there was a “learning curve” to the process. As we continued to work the other 3 infield grass perimeter edges ( 1st to 2nd, 2nd to 3rd and 3rd to Home Base) were completed prior to Labor day weekend. Each time we got better in our technique.
One key step with this water pressure process is to work with soaked sod and soil because it is important to loosen the dirt surrounding the grass root system so when the water pressure is applied, the raised dirt build-up will turn to slush and allow the water pressure to expel the excess dirt.
Another key step to expedite the process is to wear a pair of knee boots that can allow the operator to step on the saturated soil as the water is being applied to “squeeze” the slush away from the raised lip area. After mashing the sod with boot pressure, the reduced lip areas were tamped with the dirt tamper to smooth out the sod as it dried.
When all of this was completed, we could see the benefits immediately. As of today, (9/6), only two grass-dirt edges are unfinished: Outside edge from Home to 3rd and the very rear of the infield dirt area adjacent to the Outfield grass. These areas will be attacked as soon as possible, especially as soon as possible after a good soaking rain.
As I said, we ordered a load of infield Mix to match the red clay-sand mix that we purchased in 2009 and 2014. Last year (2015) we added a load of filtered plain dirt. Each time we have had a load of dirt delivered, we have been fortunate to get a few volunteers to take time from their personal schedule to come out and help with the manual labor.
When this current load was delivered, we contacted Urban Earth Landscaping company that is near Tobey on Flicker street and asked if they would help us distribute the infield mix to selected spots using their Front-End Loader. This helped us work the dirt material in small batches to speed up the dirt spreading process. Spreading the dirt to obtain a level surface was not as easy as we had hoped. We have worked the new dirt cover a couple of times and it is gradually getting better but it is going to take a lot of additional work sessions to get the surface smooth and level.
The entire infield dirt area needs a heavy dose of rain. But with games scheduled this Sunday, we can not take the chance of putting too much water on the new dirt material that and risk the chance of a scattered storm, prior to Sunday causing this new dirt to become excessively wet. Since the new dirt is not fully packed down, fresh rain or hose water causes the dirt to become saturated and “hold” the water. This condition will not improve until we add some top-soil conditioner that needs to be tilled into the base infield-mix and then rolled or tamped for a compacted smooth surface. Once that is accomplished, we will top-off the entire infield and dirt areas with pure top-soil conditioner for a more game friendly playing surface.
Special thanks goes to:
Bo McMinn, Patrick Belote, Ben Eldred, Steve Berkley, Johnny White and Guy Church for their sweat and muscle to get the dirt spread out.
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