Oct. 27, 2003
By Jason Krump
WSU Athletic Media Relations
One Major League Baseball team, the Tampa Bay Devils Rays, utilize FieldTurf for their playing surface.
Prior to this season, the number of NCAA Division I baseball programs to use FieldTurf for their game field numbered zero.
That figure will change to one in the 2004 season as Washington State University will join the Devils Rays in the exclusive club of baseball teams to use FieldTurf as their game field.
FieldTurf, which is currently being installed at Bailey-Brayton Stadium, is no stranger to WSU as the playing surface was put in Martin Stadium and Rogers Field during the spring of 2000.
According to WSU Director of Event Operations, John David Wicker, FieldTurf will offer advantages that the previous natural grass field could not offer.
"With the natural grass baseball field it made it very difficult for the team to go out and practice in January and February," Wicker said. "We had very poor drainage on the field, which impacted us in March and April.
"By replacing it with FieldTurf we're able to get on the field as soon as the kids get back (from vacation) in January," Wicker added. "If there is snow on the field we can plow it, which we can't do on a natural grass field. We are putting a new drainage system in so we're not going to have any issue with the field having standing water unless you get a torrential downpour."
Having FieldTurf as a playing surface will alleviate any questions as to field conditions for practice or games, according to head baseball coach Tim Mooney.
"The reason to do it is to give you a surface that you can be on in January, February and March," said the fourth-year head coach. "It allows the players the tools necessary to practice daily.
"It will definitely allow you to play more games but it will allow us to practice more," Mooney continued. "We get a day in January or February where the sun pops out and it's nice. But you get the moisture on the field and you couldn't get on. Now when you get those nice days the field is going to be ready and that's the biggest difference."
WSU became the second Division I university to install FieldTurf as a full-time playing surface in a football stadium. The University of Nebraska installed the same turf and recommended the turf to WSU officials after the Huskers completed their 1999 season with positive reviews of the new product.
The 2.5-inch slick-feeling blades of FieldTurf are a combination of polyurethane and polypropylene and rest on a 200,000 pound base of cryogenically-ground scrap rubber and silica sand. The rubber is comprised of recycled tires and Nike shoes. The blades are resistant to extremes in temperature and have an ultraviolet protection to help resist fading.
The Bailey-Brayton Field renovation, which will cost approximately 1.5 million dollars according to Wicker, includes replacing almost the entire field in FieldTurf.
"Something unique about this is that we are not going to have dirt cutouts at first, second and third where you would see in a traditional baseball field," Wicker said. "We are going to have all FieldTurf except for home plate and the pitchers mound. It's literally wall-to-wall FieldTurf.
"If you are looking at a natural grass field, where you have dirt, we are going to have dirt colored FieldTurf in those areas so it will look like there is a true infield." Wicker explained. "The warning track and the five-foot area all the way around the perimeter of the field will be the same."
Having FieldTurf around the bases leads to a question of how a person can slide on it?
No problem says Mooney.
"I think it is easy," he explained. "Our guys slide on it all the time. It is more of a consistent surface. Dirt changes with the environment. It gets hard or sticky when it's muddy. This slides the same pretty much every time. There are fewer abrasions. Watching our players play I think they are more comfortable with it."
Fifth-year senior outfielder Collin Henderson echoes Mooney sentiments.
"We practiced on it at Martin Stadium and the football practice field and it's fine," Henderson said. "It's a faster track than dirt which I think will be to our advantage. When teams come to Pullman we are used to how to slide and the other teams aren't. It may look funny but I think the playability will be fine."
Henderson has a unique perspective on how FieldTurf plays as he was a wide receiver for the football team from 1999 to 2002. Henderson had played on the previous Omni-Turf field and FieldTurf at Martin Stadium.
"I felt a lot better playing on a FieldTurf surface," Henderson explained. "It is a very soft, very forgiving surface for diving or sliding. In terms of an injury standpoint it is very safe."
Installation of FieldTurf is not the only renovation being done to Bailey-Brayton Field. In addition to FieldTurf, each dugout will be renovated and the fencing around the field will be redone.
"Aesthetically it's going to be a very nice looking ballpark," Wicker said.
According to Wicker, the renovation is scheduled to end in January. However, Wicker hopes that the project will be completed by the end of November.
For more on FieldTurf, see its web site at www.fieldturf.com