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Everything About The Grass Your Favorite MLB Stadium Uses

mlb stadium

There is nothing quite like a sunny day at the ballpark, watching America’s favorite pastime. As you take in the crisp, clean air and bask in the warm sun, you may not realize that beneath the players’ feet lies some of the most carefully manicured grass around. Join us as we take a look at the grass of your favorite MLB stadiums!

History Of Artificial Turf In MLB

While there are only 30 MLB stadiums in America, each one has its own unique field. Unlike other sports, the dimensions of a baseball field vary from one stadium to the next. While all NFL fields, for example, are the exact same width and length, MLB fields differ in size, configuration, and (you guessed it) grass type!

Any baseball purest will tell you that the game is meant to be played outdoors on a grass field, but modern-day innovations have changed that a bit. In 1966, the Houston Astrodome became the first stadium to have artificial turf (AstroTurf), which was a revolutionary change at the time. Many other teams soon followed suit and installed artificial turf in their own stadiums.

At its peak, artificial turf was in as many as 10 MLB stadiums around the country at a time when there were only 26 stadiums being used. The novelty of artificial turf attracted some new fans to the sport, but it didn’t take long for teams and individual players to start missing the benefits of a grass field.

MLB Turned Its Back On Artificial Turf

Rolled up artificial turf

Over time, the downsides of artificial turf in baseball stadiums became apparent. Players typically did not grow up developing their skills on artificial turf, and it became hard for many players around the league to adjust. The fake turf would cause balls to roll way too quickly or bounce too high, the surface underneath it was hard and caused more injuries, and it made the temperature on the field hotter because it retained heat much more than real grass. Today, there are only 5 stadiums with some form of artificial turf:

  • Chase Field (Arizona Diamondbacks)
  • Globe Life Field (Texas Rangers)
  • LoanDepot Park (Miami Marlins)
  • Rogers Centre (Toronto Blue Jays)
  • Tropicana Field (Tampa Bay Rays)
 

This number was even lower just a few years ago, with only 2 stadiums featuring fake turf in 2019. Locally, baseball fans may recall that AstroTurf was used in Kauffman Stadium during Kansas City Royals games until 1994, when the stadium switched to a Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass blend. Around the league, most clubs seem to agree that real grass is the way to go.

The Majority Of MLB Stadiums Use Kentucky Bluegrass

mlb bluegrass

So, if most teams prefer to use real grass, what kind do they use? The most common type of grass used in MLB stadiums is Kentucky bluegrass, with 16 stadiums utilizing this turf type completely, and a 17th stadium that uses it just for the infield. This type of grass is known for its durability and ability to withstand high traffic areas, making it a perfect choice for baseball fields. It also has a famously soft texture, which obviously comes in handy when players need to dive to catch balls.

The color and texture of Kentucky bluegrass are like no other grass type. This grass type is named appropriately, as the hue of this deep green turf is often described as faintly blue. The soft texture also makes this grass very easy for grounds crews to work with and shape as desired. In fact, many crews bend grass blades rather than cutting them to create more impressive visual effects for the fans, and Kentucky bluegrass is perfect for such a strategy.

Location Makes The Difference!

The properties of Kentucky bluegrass do make it a good choice for a playing surface in MLB stadiums, but there is another factor that plays an even bigger role in determining which grass is best for which stadium—climate.

While Kentucky bluegrass is the choice of most MLB stadiums, this is simply due to most MLB stadiums being in either cool or transition climate zones. When dealing with lawn care, there are 3 main climate zones that determine which type of grass should be used.

Tree showing how it looks in both summer and winter
  • Cool Climate Zone: This zone includes the northernmost parts of the United States, as well as some inland areas of the West Coast. The cool season in this zone typically lasts from early April to mid-October, with average temperatures during this time ranging from 60 to 75 degrees. The grass types that grow best in a cool climate are tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and perennial ryegrass.
 
  • Transition Climate Zone: This zone is located in the middle of the country and experiences both hot and cold seasons. The transition season typically lasts from early April to late October, with average temperatures during this time ranging from 65 to 80 degrees. The grass types that grow best in a transition climate are also tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, and perennial ryegrass.
 
  • Warm Climate Zone: This zone is located in the southernmost parts of the United States, as well as some inland areas of the West Coast. The warm season in this zone typically lasts from early April to late October, with average temperatures during this time ranging from 70 to 85 degrees. The grass types that grow best in a warm climate are Bermudagrass and zoysiagrass.

Bermudagrass Is Best For Warm-Climate Stadiums

mlb bermudagrass

Of the 30 MLB stadiums, 23 are located in a cool or transition climate zone, which explains why Kentucky bluegrass is so popular. However, 8 ballparks utilize Bermudagrass, which is the best option for stadiums in warmer areas, and it still performs well in transition zones.

For example, the San Francisco Giants play their home games at Oracle Park, which is located in a cool climate zone. However, due to the stadium’s proximity to the Bay Area, the temperatures during baseball season can get quite warm, with highs often reaching into the 80s and 90s. To deal with this, the grounds crew at Oracle Park decided to use a type of Bermudagrass known as “Tifway 419” for their infield. This grass is bred for indoor use (such as domed stadiums) and is more tolerant of warmer temperatures than Kentucky bluegrass, making it a better choice for a playing surface in this particular stadium.

identifying bermudagrass (1)

A different example is Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros. This stadium is located in a warm climate zone, and the temperatures during baseball season can get quite hot, with highs often reaching into the 90s and 100s. As previously mentioned, the old stadium of the Astros was the first to use artificial turf, but teams quickly realized the negative effects of such turf in hot climates. To combat such intense heat, the club ditched the AstroTurf when they moved into Minute Maid Park. The new stadium of the Astros features the highly versatile paspalum, which is ideal for the punishing heat and drought conditions.

Other grass types, such as ryegrass or zoysiagrass, are often blended together in an attempt to create a resilient and manageable turf. However, these blended fields are still often largely composed of either Kentucky bluegrass or Bermudagrass, depending on the location, because of how well these grasses perform in their respective climates.

To Maintain An MLB Field

Heart Lawn

No matter what type of grass is used, all MLB stadiums require impeccable lawn care routines to maintain such perfect fields. This requires a lot of work on the part of the grounds crew. In addition to mowing and watering the grass, they also have to deal with things like infield skin care, field painting, and dealing with rain delays.

Infield skin care, as it’s commonly known, is important because it helps to keep the grass healthy and free of disease. The grounds crew will often use a process known as verticutting in order to remove dead grass and thatch from the playing surface. This process not only helps to keep the grass looking its best, but it also helps to improve drainage and prevent compaction.

Lawn Health

Field painting is another important part of maintaining a perfect lawn. This is because the paint used on baseball fields contains chemicals that help to control weeds and pests. In addition, field painting also helps to protect the turf from the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

Rain delays are a part of baseball, but they can be a nightmare for grounds crews. This is because rain can cause all sorts of problems for the turf, including compaction, thatch buildup, and disease. In order to deal with rain delays, grounds crews will often use tarps to cover the field. This helps to protect the grass from the elements and gives them time to make sure that the field is in perfect condition before the game resumes.

Major League Lawn Care Services

As you can see, there is a lot more to stadium turf than just what meets the eye. The next time you’re at a baseball game, take a closer look at the playing surface and think about all of the work that goes into keeping it looking perfect. If you find yourself wanting to know more about professional-grade lawn care, call Heartland Turf & Landscape at (913) 238-9278.

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