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Baseball and Softball Fields: Design, Construction, Renovation, and Maintenance / Edition 1

Baseball and Softball Fields: Design, Construction, Renovation, and Maintenance / Edition 1

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Create the flawless playing field your team and its fans deserve. This book covers it all, from stadium and field design to fences and drainage to amenities for spectators. In practical, non-technical language, the authors outline the most common problems you're likely to encounter and provide solutions for each, including special considerations for all major North American climate zones. With contributions from Major League groundskeepers who share their experiences in managing state-of-the-art facilities, this guide is your ticket to a truly gorgeous field.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780471447931
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: 08/14/2003
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 921,901
Product dimensions: 7.26(w) x 10.04(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

JIM PUHALLA is President of Sportscape International, Inc., a firm specializing in the design, construction, renovation, and maintenance of sports fields and related facilities. He has contributed numerous articles to Sports Turf magazine and received the magazine's "Baseball Diamond of the Year" award in 1995 for reconstructing Boardman High School's field in Ohio.

JEFF KRANS is Professor of Agronomy in the Golf and Sports Turf Management program at Mississippi State University. He has conducted extensive turfgrass research, as well as developed, patented, and commercialized four turf-type bermudagrass cultivars.

MIKE GOATLEY is Professor of Agronomy in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences at Mississippi State University. He has conducted turfgrass research in the areas of plant nutrition, plant growth regulation, and soil modification.

Read an Excerpt

Baseball and Softball Fields

Design, Construction, Renovation, and Maintenance

By Jim Puhalla Jeff Krans Mike Goatley

John Wiley & Sons

Copyright © 2003

Jim Puhalla, Jeff Krans, Mike Goatley
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-471-44793-5

Chapter One

Field Design


In this chapter, we will consider the design of baseball and softball fields from the perspective
of the field and surrounding areas. The discussion includes such design elements
as contour plans, warning tracks, and access to the field for players, spectators, and equipment.
It also considers the design of both skinned and grass infields, and alternative methods
of laying out multiple-field complexes.

The chapter begins with the most important single factor affecting the playability of a
baseball or softball diamond: contouring. If, for example, a field is not sloped enough to
facilitate surface drainage, water puddles will eventually be a problem. On the other hand,
if the field has too much slope, playability will be affected by unpredictable ball response
and the field will have a disorienting effect on players. If the contours are not uniform, the
result will be an uneven surface and heavy rainfall may produce ruts. If the facility is not
correctly designed and constructedin the first place, reconstruction will be required to
achieve positive surface drainage.


Professionals engaged in the design and construction of athletic fields are frequently called
upon to fix fields that are plagued by wet spots, ruts, or other problems. In many cases, a
quick examination of the facility shows that it was constructed without the benefit of a
thorough survey. Sometimes the original planners just thought it looked level. In other
cases, the field started out as a mowed area used for practice or informal play and then
was needed for games.

To avoid problems with the field contours, it is essential that any new construction or
reconstruction project begin with a thorough survey of the site. Intuition and the naked
eye will not provide sufficient understanding of the topography of the area; only a careful
survey will accomplish that end.

(Note that the process of surveying includes shooting topographic elevations, measuring
the dimensions of the area, and noting such features as streams, structures, roadways,
and the like. All are important to the design of a solidly performing diamond.)

In surveying and laying out a baseball or softball diamond, it is best to proceed
according to this sequence: First, survey the boundaries of the area, making sure there is
sufficient room for the playing field, including foul territory. As a general rule of thumb,
it is wise to survey about twice the area of the field itself. Next, using the measurements
taken of the area, make a drawing, on which you will mark elevations. Then establish a
grid pattern on your drawing, and place markers on the ground to match the grid pattern
on the drawing. In designing a new field, it is customary to survey the site using a 50 ft
grid pattern. This is sufficient to establish the existing contours of the site where the field
will be constructed. Shoot elevations and mark them on your drawing, establishing a
benchmark at a permanent point, such as a curb or a sewer lid. (All elevations are stated
in relation to the benchmark.) A computerized surveying instrument called a "total station"
records all measurements and elevations and allows them to be downloaded to a

(In planning for the reconstruction of an existing field, it can be helpful to shoot the elevations
of the key points on the diamond; simply shooting on a grid pattern will miss the
most important points that are critical to good playability. Be sure to take measurements
to existing backstops, dugouts, fences, and other structures, and include these measurements
on your drawing. A surveying worksheet used for shooting necessary elevations for
a reconstruction project is presented in Chapter 5, Figure 5.20.)

Using the information from the survey, make a new drawing of the area to scale, and
mark on it all the measurements, elevations, and other information on the topography of
the area. Then lay out the field or fields, using dimensions such as those in rule books or
those given in Chapter 11 of this book.

In laying out the field, it is important to consider its orientation, the relationship of the
field to the points of the compass. Although many fields are simply oriented to the available
space, some official rule books for baseball and softball recommend laying out the
facility so that a line drawn from the tip of home plate through the pitcher's plate and second
base points in an east-northeast direction. This orientation prevents the batter and
catcher from looking into the sun as they stand at the plate and positions most of the fielders
so that their eye line to the batter is not directly into the setting sun. You may want to
establish the orientation for your field based on the time of year and the time of day when
the field is most typically used.

It is also important to reserve space for the dugouts, backstop, surrounding fence, and
other peripheral elements. All too often, a failure to plan for these structures forces the
builders to install them in an awkward and unsuitable fashion, which may compromise
player safety and disturb a well-planned drainage scheme.

Table 1.1 suggests minimum space requirements for baseball and softball fields, with
sufficient space around the playing field for fence lines, dugouts, spectator seating, and

Table 1.2 displays the square footage of the skinned area and the grass area for common-size
baseball and softball fields, including foul territory.


The criteria that follow are based on the authors' experience with fields that were not
properly designed. They are divided into two groups: the fundamental issues that allow
the field to perform well under a variety of weather conditions, and the safety issues that
allow players to use the field with minimal risk of injury. Fields may sometimes be built
without following these guidelines, but planners should keep in mind that departing from
them may compromise the safety or playability of the diamond. Although following the
guidelines may seem inconvenient, failure to follow them will almost always cause substantial
problems later.

1.3a Fundamental Issues

One of the most important considerations in designing a field, whether a single field, a
multiple-field complex, or an addition to an existing sports complex, is to treat each field
as an individual drainage unit. No field should be expected to drain away more water than
that which falls on it. This is the reason for surveying beyond the playing area itself. Even
if a field is built with correct contours, water running onto the field from an adjacent area
can seriously compromise playability in rainy conditions.

Second, the infield should be higher than the rest of the field. To keep the infield
playable, it is important that no water drains onto the infield from the outfield or the sideline

Third, the highest point on the infield is the pitcher's mound, and the infield slopes
away from the mound in all directions. (The height of the pitching plate, or "rubber," is
specified by the sanctioning body for each level of competition. See Chapter 11 for heights
established by sanctioning bodies.)

Fourth, the base lines should be as level as possible. Although a slight grade may be
used on some fields to enhance drainage, sanctioning bodies typically specify level base
paths. When the base lines are not level, the overall contours of the infield can be disturbed,
which may result in ineffective surface drainage.

Fifth, differences in grade should be continuous and uniform from contour line to contour
line. Ideally, the slope should be set at about 0.5% for the infield, 0.5% to 1.5% for
the skinned area, and 1.0% to 2.0% for the outfield. These percentages will allow surface
water to run off the playing area and into catch basins or swales outside the boundary
lines or to lower-lying areas surrounding the field.

Sixth, to facilitate mowing, areas outside the fences should have a maximum slope of
3:1. That is, for every 3 ft measured horizontally, the grade goes up or down a maximum
of 1 ft. The generally accepted maximum slope for pedestrian walkways is 1 in. per foot.
(This is, by the way, the maximum slope recommended for wheelchair access under codes
related to the Americans with Disabilities Act, ADA.)

Seventh, be sure that sufficient space is left for player and spectator access to the field,
in the form of walkways and driveways. Where appropriate, plan for parking at the closest
possible point. (This planning will also enhance your ability to get service and maintenance
vehicles to the field later.)

Finally, a good field design should take account of two important concepts. "Cutting"
refers to the removal of soil when the grade must be lowered, and "filling" means adding
soil where the grade must be raised. The best designs balance the amount of soil to be cut
with the amount to be filled. This balance minimizes the amount of new material that
must be transported onto the site or the amount of existing soil that will have to be
trucked away.

1.3b Safety Issues

In designing the diamond, a number of safety issues must be considered. One of the most
obvious is the distance from the foul lines to the dugouts, grandstands, and other fixed
objects. As a general rule, a minimum clearance of 25 ft is recommended for Little League
and softball fields, with twice as much for baseball at the high school level and above.
Because players must run through this area looking upward to track foul balls, the greatest
possible clear area should be allowed. (However, softball sanctioning bodies recommend
no more than 30 ft from the home plate to the backstop and outside the foul lines.
See Chapter 11 for the recommended clearance for each level of baseball and softball.)

If possible, catch basins should be located outside the fences surrounding the playing
area to prevent player injury. If the presence of grandstands requires the installation of
catch basins inside the fences, they should be placed as close as possible to the fences or
grandstands. In such circumstances, a flat grid with small openings should be used to minimize
the risk of injury.

Obviously, there should be no obstructions in the field of play (including foul territory).
Such obstructions include bullpens, although many fields now in use were built with
bullpens inside the fences in foul territory.

In designing a competitive baseball or softball field, it is always wise to have the latest
copy of the rule book of the organization that governs the particular level of play. Contact
the appropriate sanctioning body included in the list of addresses given in Chapter 11.


Baseball and softball diamonds are more complicated to design than any other type of
sports fields, largely because they consist of three distinct parts that must be integrated for
the diamond to perform successfully. In discussing field design, we refer to these three
parts as the outfield (used here as commonly understood), the skinned area (the groomed
dirt portion of the field where the infielders customarily stand during play), and the infield
(the area enclosed by the base paths). Even where the infield is skinned, as on a softball
diamond, for design purposes the infield is distinguished from the skinned area where the
infielders position themselves.

The following drawings illustrate three designs-or "grading plans"-for baseball and
softball diamonds. Note that the full-field designs continue past the actual playing field
and include some of the surrounding area. This is because failure to properly contour
these areas can cause water to run onto the field.

1.4a The Outfield

The most important design principle for an outfield is that it must not drain toward the
infield. Figure 1.1 shows one of the simplest and most common field designs. The outfield
slopes downward from the second and third base lines to the outfield fence at a rate of
approximately 1.0%. (We consider this 1.0% slope to be the minimum acceptable slope,
and we recommend 1.25% to 1.5% whenever possible. Probably, 1.75% is the maximum;
a 2.0% slope becomes visibly noticeable.) The most obvious advantage of this design lies
is the simplicity of its contours, which makes it fairly easy to build. For instance, in constructing
this field, grade stakes can be set on a 50 ft grid pattern, which is easier than finding
exact contour lines through the outfield.

The most common complaint about this design is that it slopes downward from the
infield to the fence; with a 1.0% slope, the outfield fence will be about 3 ft lower than the
infield. Naturally, if the slope is increased, this difference becomes even greater. Another
disadvantage of this design is that the entire skinned area drains into the outfield. That
means water must pass through the circle at the grass edge. This edge often becomes
clogged with dirt as a result of competitive play, grooming the field, and runoff, creating
a "lip"-a sort of dam that retains water on the skinned area.

(Figure 1.4 shows detailed skinned area and infield contours for the full-field design in
Figure 1.1.)

Figure 1.2 is an improved design, crowned from second base through center field to
the outfield fence. The center crown directs water toward the boundaries and away
from the center of the field. The strength of this design is its handling of runoff. There
is a shorter path for runoff from the outfield; water flows to the foul lines rather than
all the way to the outfield fence. The skinned area also drains toward the foul lines, creating
two exit points, behind first and third base. It is easier to keep these exit points
draining effectively than to maintain the entire grass edge between the skinned area and
the outfield.

The main disadvantages of this design are related to the crown. Because of the shape of
the contours, grade stakes cannot be set on a 50 ft grid pattern for construction, because
that grid pattern may not locate the crown precisely. The crown will also cause the outfield
fence to slope away from center field toward the foul lines; in relation to the batter,
the fences will be lower at the foul poles than in dead center.

(The skinned area and infield detail for this design is provided in Figure 1.5.)

The design illustrated in Figure 1.3 draws from the strengths of each of the first two
layouts-we have referred to them as "good" and "better"; consider this one our "best."
In this design, a crown has been developed from second base about one-third of the way
to the outfield fence. This crown allows water to run off the heart of the field toward the
foul lines. In the outer half of the outfield, runoff is toward the fence. This design sheds
water effectively because it establishes the shortest paths for drainage throughout the field.
With a 1.


Excerpted from Baseball and Softball Fields
by Jim Puhalla Jeff Krans Mike Goatley
Copyright © 2003 by Jim Puhalla, Jeff Krans, Mike Goatley.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents




Chapter 1. Field Design.

Chapter 2. Irrigation, Drainage, and Covers.

Chapter 3. Soil.

Chapter 4. Turfgrass Selection.

Chapter 5. Construction and Reconstruction.


Chapter 6. Renovation.

Chapter 7. Skinned Area (and Warning Track) Maintenance and Management Procedures.

Chapter 8. Turfgrass Maintenance and Management Procedures.

Chapter 9. Field Aesthetics.


Chapter 10. Fences, Backstops, Dugouts, and Bullpens.

Chapter 11. Rules and Regulations.

About the Authors.


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