COLUMBIA — Crews worked all day Tuesday to get the six fields at Rainbow Softball Complex ready for evening games. Groundskeeper Michael Acton said it was difficult to even get on the fields, which each had five to six vehicle-sized puddles. Anyone stepping in one would sink about two inches into the soupy mud.
After a hard day’s work, however, the fields were still not ready to be played on.
With this year’s excessively wet weather, rainouts have been a common thing in baseball and softball this season. Friday night leagues have only been able to play one or two times since the season started in April, Mike Griggs, Columbia park services manager said. Field crews have been working extremely hard to get fields ready for weeknight league games, as well as weekend tournaments.
Workers use a product called Turface Quick-Dry, a powder like, tan material that is used to help soak up all the moisture in the fields so that they can get them ready to be played on. Griggs said if the fields don’t dry up after two to four bags of Turface, they usually cancel league night games. However, he said since so many games have been cancelled, crews will probably have to start doubling the amount of bags they put on the fields.
“We have to do whatever is needed to make our players happy,” Griggs said.
Turface Quick-Dry comes in 50 pound bags that cost $8 a bag. Gabe Huffington, parks supervisor for sports turf and golf course maintenance, said he usually purchases the Turface in pallets. There are 40 bags in one pallet, which costs $320.
Huffington said that usually in the spring, he will order 840 bags of Turface for spring and summer, however, this season he has doubled that amount for the spring alone. The pallets of Turface come in semi truck loads, each semi truck load costing about $5,400.
“Usually we only purchase one semi truck load, this year we had to buy two,” Huffington said.
Many weekend tournaments are being cancelled as well. Huffington said the contracts for tournaments say that crews will only spread three bags of Turface on a wet field. After that, spreading extra costs $10 a bag. Griggs said there was a tournament a few weekends ago where they laid 160 bags of Turface on 12 fields, which ended up costing the tournament director close to $1,600.
Acton said he has never had to deal with rain like this in the seven years he has been working as a groundskeeper. He said it’s really hard to get stuff done if you don’t have any nice days where the fields will actually dry out. He said the best conditions for drying out fields is when the weather is warm, it’s not too humid, there’s lots of sunshine and a slight breeze.
However, in these conditions, it can be tiring to work on the fields all day.
“Dirt and sand in the soil sort of reflects heat back at you,” Acton said. “It seems a lot hotter when your working on a ball field.”
Acton said even though it has been a struggle getting work done this season, people have been understanding about the numerous cancellations.