Power Alleys: Digging in concrete for a Rogers Centre dirt infield

 Work will soon begin on the Rogers Centre to build an all-dirt base paths and get rid of the dirt cut outs.

Work will soon begin on the Rogers Centre to build an all-dirt base paths and get rid of the dirt cut outs.

Jan. 10, 2016


By Andrew Hendriks
Canadian Baseball Network


With the CFL Toronto Argos moving to greener pastures in 2016, preparations aimed at making Rogers Centre a baseball-only facility have begun at 1 Blue Jays Way.
While real grass remains on the horizon, the first step in making the parks turfed playing surface more player-friendly involves adding a full dirt infield to replace the existing cutouts that have been in place SkyDome opened its doors in 1989.
This February, contractors will be on site excavating the poured concrete that currently lies underneath the Rogers Centre’s base paths. In essence, they will be cutting a depth of 12-inches out of the existing surface in order to create a recession deep enough to allow moisture to cycle throughout the base of gravel, sand and surface material that will make up the proposed dirt portion of the stadiums infield.
In its current configuration, the base cutouts stand a mere four inches below the playing surface, a depth that head groundskeeper Tom Farrell says is insufficient with regards to keeping the surface moist. If the infield is drier it makes for a harder sliding surface around the bags, which can lead to both hesitation and peril.
“Ideally we want to go deeper so that our base is thick enough and deep enough to help better manage the water content” said Farrell at the fourth annual National Coaching Clinic this past weekend.
“If it’s too shallow, it dries out a lot quicker, becomes harder and cracks up during the game. We want to insure that there are enough layers built in to maintain that moisture”.
In the past, hamstring concerns have affected some of the Blue Jays most prominent players including Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion and a laundry list of others who came before them. With a new infield, those within the organization are looking to curb this unfortunate outcome before it costs the club any further ailments.
The idea in doing this is to make the playing surface more comfortable for the players” explained Farrell, who’s been an integral member of the Blue Jays grounds crew since the days of blizzard-like conditions at Exhibition Stadium.
In all, the retrofit will take between three to four weeks to complete, and should be ready to go before the Jays take the field in Dunedin this March.
Once sharing a portion of the turf with the Argos, gone are the days of late-night conversions and hard spots within the Dome’s carpeted outfield. Although Rogers Centre will host it’s share of non-baseball related events throughout the summer, the stadiums grounds crew will treat the playing surface similar to the way other ballparks across North America run theirs, leaving the turf and freshly installed infield in place for the duration of the season regardless of the event.
Shifting our sights back to the installation of real grass inside the now 27 year-old venue, the Blue Jays and the University of Guelph remain focused on making this a reality in the coming years. That said, both parties aren’t willing to rush into anything until they can confirm that it will work for the duration of an entire 81 game schedule.
“ We’re still working on that process” said Farrell. “We want to make sure we do it right.”

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Andrew Hendriks

Born in southern Ontario during the late 1980's, Hendriks had a front row seat to watch the Blue Jays reach the pinnacle in '92/'93 as a child, an experience that only bolstered this Canadian's love for the "American Game." Having played since before his memory allows access too, his passion for Baseball grew over years of emulating his heroes on the local sandlots, memorizing the backs of chewing gum scented cards and travelling across North America to experience as many aspects of the game as possible. In 2009, Hendriks began volunteering at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame as a Weekend Tour Guide. By 2010, he was hired on to help curate for the museum & Instruct the fundamentals of the game along side such legends as Tony Fernandez, Roberto Alomar and Jim Fanning during the Hall's annual Kids On Deck program. Following the 2011 season, Hendriks began blogging and co-hosting a weekly podcast for www.BackInBlue.ca, a Blue Jays themed website ran by fans, for fans. Looking to continue connecting with baseball fans across the country, Hendriks is excited to join such a strong team at the Canadian Baseball Network and looks forward to chipping in.