Cheap Seats

If cows don’t eat it…it’s OK to play on it

My son’s baseball team was at a tournament in Medford last weekend. The tournament took place at U.S. Cellular Community Park…a sprawling complex with football and soccer fields in addition to baseball diamonds. There was a complex within the complex that had five sparkling fields with full FieldTurf from backstop to fence.  I made a comment to one of the coaches before the game that “I used to think that if cows don’t eat it, I don’t want to play on it but I’ve changed my mind….”

You see, FieldTurf is not the bright green AstroTurf I grew up with. AstroTurf was almost concrete-like and if you weren’t careful you could get a nasty burn from the surface. FieldTurf is much softer, a much grainier surface with tons of rubber pellets. In my opinion it’s a great surface to play on and a surface I would love to see on more diamonds in Clark County.

There are already several football/soccer stadiums in the county that have FieldTurf. MacKenzie Stadium and Kiggins Bowl along with Fishback Stadium (Washougal HS) and Doc Harris Stadium (Camas) all have FieldTurf. The old Nautilus “Backyard” sports complex which had a softball diamond and a football field were FieldTurf as well.

To my knowledge the only local baseball fields which have FieldTurf are at the Harmony Sports Complex, home to Cascade Little League and at Luke Jensen Park, home to Salmon Creek Little League. And the only local complex that has more than one turf field is the Hood View Sports Complex in Happy Valley (just outside of Clackamas).

The big drawback to this surface is the installation costs which are about twice as much as a natural grass surface per www.fieldturf.com. Most leagues and/or school districts don’t have six figures worth of cash lying around to get these put in. However, the maintenance/upkeep is about a ¼ of the cost of natural grass per year. And that’s not to mention all of the time that goes into field maintenance and upkeep as well…in my three years as a Little League board member our biggest budget line item and the one thing we spent the most time on was field maintenance. And then there was all the time I lost during pregame as a manager because I was spending so much time getting the fields ready for play (raking, lining the field, putting the bases down, etc.) when I should have been spending time getting our team ready to play.

But the biggest advantage to a FieldTurf surface is this…most of the time when a baseball/softball game gets cancelled it’s not because of rain, but because of unplayable fields. My biggest headache as a manager was cancelling/rescheduling games….and when you finally settle on a date that works for both parties and a field is open it proceeds to rain again. With FieldTurf the only thing you have to worry about is if it starts raining too hard for play to safely go on, and if you’re an experienced Pacific Northwesterner you know that rarely happens.

In closing, yes, it does cost a lot of money to install this surface…and fundraising in this day and age is challenging at best. But sitting up here in cheap seats my thought is once you get past that initial cost it would result in less game cancellations, less money for upkeep and more time for coaches and administrators to pull for their teams instead of pulling weeds. My back feels better just thinking about that one.

Paul Williams

I am a sports nut who has tried to make the transition from athlete to athletic....err....supporter of my two children and their athletic endeavours. I am also a former sports reporter for The Arlington Times, Marysville Globe, The Skagit Argus and The Coeur d'Alene Press. Follow me on Facebook or on Twitter (@PDub4170).