10 Questions About Playing Baseball On Artificial Surfaces

Happy Tuesday and Happy Back To School Day for many of our student athletes here in Rhode Island. Speaking of schools in Rhode Island, Beck Field, on the campus of the University of Rhode Island, was one of the host fields for this past weekend’s Firecracker Baseball Labor Day Classic Tournament. I got out to Beck on Sunday and Monday afternoons to catch local Rhode Island baseball teams compete and had a blast watching this very high level of competition. One of the amazing features of Beck Field is its FieldTurf artificial surface. As I was taking notes about the game and snapping Pictures of Pitchers, I started to ponder about how this FieldTurf surface potentially affected the play on the field. So in honor of student athlete baseball players heading back to school, here are a few questions I came up with. If you have an answer, send me a message and I will gladly read/listen.

  1. Do pitchers gain any advantage with this artificial surface as opposed to a dirt mound? Or do they lose out because they cannot “customize” their push off and landing spots like on a dirt mound?

2. Do hitters lose their footing more/less/same on the turf because they cannot “dig in” that back foot into the dirt in the batter’s box?

3. Do catchers establish good or bad habits blocking baseballs coming off the FieldTurf? A “true” hop on the turf tends to pop or bounce in one plane, where a ball in the dirt can shoot just about any direction.

4. On a routine ground ball to the shortstop position, on the FieldTurf, is the speed of the baseball similar to that of a ground ball hit on a grassy infield? Does the FieldTurf speed up or slow down this grounder?

5. What is it like to slide on the FieldTurf surface? Does it slow your slide up at all as opposed to the dirt you see on most baseball field basepaths. Or do you pick up speed as you dive or slide towards that bag?

6. During the Northeast Reds game on Monday, I saw a player from another team arrive with his baseball bag and what appeared to be turf shoes. Will regular sneakers work on this Field Turf surface or do these special turf shoes need to be worn?

7. Do outfielders take a different approach to top-spin line drives hit out to them? Grass can tend to deaden the ball, whereas the FieldTurf may accelerate the baseball so it bounces and bounds over your head.

8. On a hot, sunny afternoon, such as this past Monday, how hot does the FieldTurf surface get? Does that play a factor in the game at all?

9. Do baserunners gain an advantage, say on a scoring play from second base. With the Field Turf surface being a truer surface to run on than loose dirt, is there more confidence by that 3rd base coach to send a runner from 2nd on a single to left field?

10. Should more Rhode Island high schools, youth organizations, local recreation leagues consider switching from natural surfaces to this artificial surface to get more games in? From March until the games this weekend, and from what I observed, Beck Field is in playable condition most of the year.

I’d love to hear your responses to 1 or several or all of my questions. Feel free to respond (positively of course) to my posts on social media or send me an email at ribaseballexperience@gmail.com.

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The RIBBE is The Rhode Island Baseball Experience. It is promoting the game of baseball here in the great state of Rhode Island for the entire baseball world to see. The RIBBE is positive stories, photos, videos, and responsible social media posts. The RIBBE is an information resource for families looking for an AAU team or a summer camp or a great place to buy a first baseman’s mitt. The RIBBE is a network of coaches, tournament directors, parents, leagues, and baseball junkies whose passion of the game of baseball is unquestioned. I believe that providing expert analysis, information and directions to ballfields, and coaching advice from some of the top RI baseball minds will help promote the game of baseball here in RI to a whole new level.

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