When it was announced here that the Diamondbacks would be installing a new turf field at Chase Field, we were largely in the dark as to how it might actually look, feel, and play. After all it is a brand new surface, not yet installed in any MLB park.
As reported by Zach Buchanan, the team did send some front office personnel to Auburn University where the turf had been installed, and also sent some players from Visalia to a park in California where the surface had been installed to field some ground balls.
In the official release linked above, it states:
The “Batting a Thousand” Natural Turf (B1K) is a dual fiber system comprised of Shaw’ high-performance Strenexe® XD slit film and Shaw’s Bolt® monofilament. This system provides high durability and functionality by preventing the infill from “splashing,” maintaining adequate infill levels across the field.
On this past Wednesday I went out to Salt River Fields with the express intent to see players taking groundballs off the new surface. Unfortunately the infielders did not practice on the new surface. I wondered why. so went to go look for the surface, and I almost missed it. As I was walking by it I saw a field that had a lot of reddish brown dirt spots surrounding the center of the infield, all around the pitching mound. It’s hard to see it from the picture above. But at first glance it gave the appearance of a worn field. However I quickly realized this was indeed the new surface, as the tell tale seams are pretty clearly seen as well.
As I walked onto the field, I began chatting with one of the security guys about the new surface. The very first thing he told me was he saw players taking groundballs off it and “The field splashes when the ball bounces”. At first I was thinking of a splash like you see on most turf fields with the black rubber bouncing up. But he said , no it looked like sand. So I went onto the field and picked out some of the infill to see what it looked like:
Well that explains the reddish brown “staining” I saw surrounding the pitchers mound. The stuff is actually kind of crunchy in texture.
As I said, I did not get to see the players taking groundballs myself and did not witness the alleged splashing. Nick Piecoro reported last night some feedback from the players and the only thing that was mentioned was that the field seems to play slower and less bouncy. That is somewhat expected. Chase field was always known as a hard and fast surface. This could result in fewer hits and slightly lower BABIP/Batting Avg. But no mention of the splashing in his article.
If there is indeed significant splashing though, I have to think that could be a factor for the players to get used to. Might it turn into a home field advantage? That’s impossible to tell of course. But it was somewhat startling to me for the very first feedback I got on the surface was that it was splashing. Because it’s not supposed to.
We’re probably not going to get a chance to see players on the new surface until the March 25th-26th exhibition games against the White Sox. So we’ll just have to wait and see if this is actually the case.