Help Me Help You
So you wanna choose an infield mix.
The pressure is on. You have to pick the right one, but factoring in maintenance, weather, etc. seems annoyingly complicated. And just thinking of the word “budget” makes you groan.
Where do you even start?
First, grab a pen and a notebook.
As you read these 7 tips, write down your infield mix qualifications. Is it high-budget or low-budget? How weather resistant does it need to be?
Once you reach Tip #4, you’ll have a list of the most important factors for you. Then continue to Tip #5 to select a mix that will fit your budget. By the time you complete Tip #7, you’ll have an infield that meet your needs and impresses anyone who steps foot on your infield.
Pen at the ready?
1. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
You knew this was coming, so let’s get it out of the way.
Budget. It’s a huge factor in determining what type of infield mix you need.
We know you want your little league baseball field to be an exact replica of your favorite MLB team. Unfortunately, that isn’t reasonable for many parks. You need to be honest with yourself. How much money do you have to spend on an infield mix? Be realistic and come up with an accurate budget.
If you do have the money, shoot for the stars and pick a mix like engineered clay. Engineered clay is generally used for high-end collegiate and professional fields. A rough price estimate is $145 per ton. It’s pricey because it has a specific sand ratio and particle size, which gives it additional structure and strength.
The next most expensive is decomposed granite, or DG for short. DG is a natural product made of pulverized granite. $95 per ton is a ballpark estimate. It works great for high school and recreational play.
On the lower end of the price scale is a DG/clay mix (if it includes a stabilizer then the price increases slightly). It’s similar to engineered clay except decomposed granite replaces sand in the sand-silt-clay ratio, which makes the DG/clay mix stable and consistent.
The most economical option is traditional clay. This mix will cost around $35 per ton. Traditional clay has a blend of sand, silt, and clay that varies depending on your climate and maintenance capabilities. 98% of fields already have traditional clay.
Once your budget is sorted out, move on to Tip #2!
2. Inspect Your Team Stats
Did you write down your budget? (High, low, or in between?)
Perfect. Now let’s talk for a minute about your team stats. No, not your baseball team. Your maintenance team.
Just like in tip #1, you’ll categorize your need for ease of maintenance as high, medium, or low. You need to consider the capabilities of your maintenance crew.
HIGH ease of maintenance: You need a mix that takes care of itself. You don’t have employees available to provide daily care for the field..
MEDIUM ease of maintenance: You have one or two guys assigned to field maintenance. You’re willing to put in a little work to keep the field looking nice and feeling soft, but a full-time maintenance team is out of the question.
LOW ease of maintenance: You’re willing and able to support a state-of-the-art field. Daily maintenance is easily provided by a maintenance crew.
This is super important to consider because there’s no point in buying an expensive infield mix if you can’t take care of it. It’ll get destroyed. Traditional clay, for example, requires A LOT of maintenance. You should water it weekly in the off season to prevent cracking, plus you must water it and drag it down before each game. If you don’t, your athletes are going to be playing in a dust cloud.
Can’t provide that kind of maintenance? Consider an infield mix that’s a little more self-reliant. Decomposed granite is a good example of an easy maintenance infield mix. You need to soft drag it prior to games and make sure it maintains moisture, but other than that, it keeps its shape.
Easy maintenance doesn’t mean zero maintenance. If you don’t moisten the surface of a DG infield, the stabilizer loses cohesiveness and the field becomes abrasive. Your team will be sliding into home plate on concrete. So make sure you have a plan for keeping your fields moist and soft.
3. Look to the Sky
Have you ever cancelled a game because of a sudden torrential rainstorm? Did the infield flood or turn into a mud bath? Did the rain leave puddles on your field? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you know why weather is an important factor in choosing an infield mix.
The bad news:
Weather is 100% out of your control.
The good news:
You can pick an infield mix specifically designed for your climate, which will decrease the effects of rain, snow and wind on your infield. If you live in a wetter climate, you need an infield mix that prevents rain outs. On the flip side, a drier, windier climate requires an infield mix that retains moisture and isn’t dusty.
Look at this example:
The map below shows the average annual precipitation in Texas. You can find maps like this for any state or country. (The data is a little dated, but the climate hasn’t changed a lot in the last 25 years, so the map still works for our purposes.)
As you can see, western Texas receives almost no rainfall throughout the year, so a rain-resistant infield mix isn’t necessary. Eastern Texas, though, receives between 60-80 inches a year. A field in that region needs to be prepared to combat lots of liquid.
If an infield mix is said to be “weather-resistant” then it tolerates large quantities of rain. Decomposed granite is the prime example of a weather-resistant mix because it drains well and doesn’t create lips on the grass.
Another weather-resistant option is engineered clay. It has a higher liquid limit than traditional clay, which basically means it doesn’t turn into mud as fast. The wide variety of particle size gives you more structure and firmness. With engineered clay, your players can play on a wet field without a pause in the game.
Think about the climate where you live. Do you need an infield mix that is weather-resistant?
Write it down!
4. Add the Feel Good Factor
Would you rather crash your bike on asphalt or grass?
Chances are you said grass. The texture makes a difference.
The same logic applies to infield mixes, because your players will be sliding and diving all over that field. If it’s rougher than sandpaper, they’ll notice.
The softest choice is engineered clay. It’s consistent, soft, and never gets chunky. Traditional clay is the next softest. Because most baseball fields already use traditional clay, players know what to expect. They’re used to the feel of it. A DG/clay mix comes next, as the clay adds smoothness to the decomposed granite. The roughest mix is decomposed granite.
Wait. Don’t imagine your players sliding on gravel—it’s not that bad. The granite particles are ground to the size of sand. In fact, if you maintain it correctly, it ends up being quite soft. But when not well-maintained, decomposed granite can become abrasive.
5. Choose Your Weapon
Now you should have your infield mix requirements. Here’s an example:
The suggestions above probably gave you an idea of what type of mix you’re looking for, but we decided it would be easier to summarize all that good information in an infographic. Look at the graphs below and find one or two infield mixes that would fit your needs.
A word to the wise:
You probably aren’t going to find an infield mix that meets every one of your criteria. (For example, if you have a low budget, you might have to opt for a mix that isn’t as weather resistant.) Give a little, take a little.
Using the Mountain Ridge High School example above, we would most likely pick the DG/clay mix with stabilizer. It fits our medium budget, it’s easy to maintain, and it ranks 3rd in weather resistance. It doesn’t have the best texture, but because it meets the rest of our needs, we’ll have to compromise on that category.
6. Pop the Question(s)
Now it’s time to go shopping.
Find a company that sells the infield mix you want. Explain your circumstances, request a quote, ask for a realistic time frame, and find out the details of their infield mixes. Ask all the questions you want, because it’s important to find a company you trust.
7. Go All In
Select dates that work around your season schedule. Once you have the details hammered out, buy your infield mix and await your awesome field!
Choosing an infield mix doesn’t have to be confusing. You now have all the information you need to make the process as easy as apple pie. We know you’re 100% capable of making the right decision, and once your infield is installed, it will impress any players, coaches, and spectators who have the privilege of attending a baseball game there. Who knows? You might even impress yourself.