Dirtless Diamonds Give Teams Real Home-Field Advantage

More synthetic-turf baseball fields are being installed these days, but many of them still use real dirt on and around the base paths, home plate and pitcher's mound. Which is why some facilities are getting lots of attention this spring for using absolutely no dirt. Instead, brown and white turf doubles as dirt and chalk.

Among these dirt-free fields are Consol Energy Park near Washington, Pa. - home to the independent Frontier League's Washington Wild Things and Washington's Trinity High School - and Summit Credit Union Field at Sun Prairie (Wis.) High School (where the outfield is still natural grass).

Installed by ProGrass, the all-turf field at CEP debuted last week when Trinity hosted Bridgeville's Chartiers Valley High School. Trinity may have been shut out, 8-0, but coach Levi Bristor says CEP gives the team an extra home-field advantage. "Since 1997, we've been practicing on our football field, which has artificial turf," he told the local Observer-Reporter newspaper. "We know how you have to slide on the turf. But it's nice to be able to take a round of infield at practice and know it's going to be on the same surface as the one we'll be playing half our games on."

In Sun Prairie - where baseball coach Rob Hamilton helped spearhead a $300,000 fundraising campaign to install FieldTurf at the new baseball stadium - Cardinals players were able to begin practicing outdoors before most of their opponents. "We were practicing out here in the snow," catcher Zach Fairchild told Madison.com in early April. "We're probably the only team in the state that had the advantage of getting outside multiple times already this year."

"We've been on turf before, but this is an advantage to be able to practice and play on this early in the season," added Hartford High coach Russ Grundy, whose team was rattled by the Cardinals, 18-5, in Summit Credit Union Field's debut earlier this month. "This is the first high school field like this that I've seen. I wish we could all have it."

While all-turf baseball fields do not require the typical maintenance of a grass field (or even a synthetic field with dirt), they do have their quirks. At CEP, for example, metal spikes are prohibited because of a warranty issue with the turf, according to the Observer-Reporter. Only molded spikes or tennis shoes are permitted.

To see photos of CEP's turf being installed, click here.

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