By: Nick Gialloreto, Territory Manager
Spring in Western PA can be very unpredictable. Over the years, I have noticed field managers fighting rainy, cold weather in March and April to try to get their infields ready for baseball/softball season. Instead of fighting these miserable conditions year in and year out, why not do a little preseason prep in the fall?
Most Fall Ball programs end in mid to late October, which leaves maintenance personnel a few weeks of decent weather to get some work done. The fall is a great time to edge infields, laser grade skinned areas, and rebuild mounds and batters boxes. All of these projects can be undertaken in the fall to alleviate some spring stress.
Keeping infields edged is critical to maintaining a safe playing surface. Edging an infield will help keep lips from forming, keep grass and weeds from creeping into the infield, and lends a nice esthetic to the field. Fall is a great time to do one last edging because grass and weeds are starting to go dormant. Since the growth of the plant is drastically slowing and will eventually stop, any edge work completed from mid October - December will carry over to the spring. By getting the infield edged, a field manager can buy themselves a few more weeks in the spring before they need to worry about edging again.
Laser grading the skinned areas in the fall will have a number of benefits. With all the spring rains and thawing of frozen ground, it can take infields days, if not weeks, to dry out. Laser grading in the fall will keep fall and spring rains, as well as, snow melt sheeting off the infield skin. This will also keep puddles and ice from forming, and will help reduce the amount of moisture in the infield come baseball/softball season. The heavy moisture that more often than not is present in an infield come spring can make it nearly impossible to laser grade. Bringing heavy tractors and carts onto a wet infield in the spring may cause more damage than good. Laser grading in the fall while the soil is still dry can prevent a lot of headaches.
Pitching mounds and batters boxes tend to get neglected as seasons wind down. Instead of struggling to repair, reshape, and rebuild mounds in the spring, field managers should think about tackling these tasks in the fall. As soon as the season ends, get out on the field and take care of business. Get all of these heavily trafficked areas fixed in the fall so if bad weather persists late into the spring, games can be safely played. Frost heave may be a bit of an issue in the spring, but a little bit of tamping will take care of this issue. Also, once the mounds and plates have been rebuilt in the fall, allow them to dry out a bit and then tarp them. Allowing moisture to escape will help reduce the spring frost heave. The tarp will help keep moisture out over the winter so the field managers can control moisture levels come spring.
It is not imperative that all of this work gets completed in the fall, but it will definitely lighten the load in the spring. Mother Nature is very unpredictable, so why try to fight her? If good weather persists into the fall, take advantage.
Work with your WSI Territory Manager today to maximize the end of the season and give yourself a leg up in the Spring!