Derrick Hall: Diamondbacks will ditch grass for synthetic turf field
Diamondbacks CEO and president Derrick Hall looked for answers over the past decade, hoping to find a solution to one of the MLB team’s biggest challenges: growing grass in a desert climate and a roofed Chase Field.
Finally, with technology allowing, the D-backs will ditch their grass field and install a synthetic turf field, joining the Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays as the third MLB team to make the move.
“I’m a purist, I’m a traditionalist. This is something that I would say over a decade we’ve been considering with all of our options,” Hall told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “I like baseball on the grass, especially if it’s safe and it’s healthy. We have tried and tried, it’s been dangerous, it’s been hard and fast, and it’s been uncomfortable in the building. There’s so many reasons.”
As first reported by The Athletic’s Zach Buchanan Friday, Arizona found the solution with the Shaw Sports Turf B1K synthetic grass.
The B1K field creating specifically for baseball will play consistently, won’t divot and will help players from slipping. It will sit on a shock-absorbent lining to make it easier on players’ knees and feet, Hall said.
The turf will include a sustainable Geofill infill, which will not splash up on contact, thus keeping the infill even and consistent.
The team will outfit Chase Field with the new turf by the 2019 season and will also install it at some fields at Salt River Field at Talking Stick.
The decision to swap live grass to turf, of course, came after failed attempts at finding grass that grew well in the desert. The team would keep the Chase Field roof open during the day, allowing the sun in, but even closing it in the late afternoon before night first pitches made for a hot game-viewing experience with the air conditioning cranked up.
Arizona tried a new strain of grass this past season, and while it looked better than in years’ past — when the outfield would develop brown, dry spots where outfielders stood — it still played hard.
“It looked good and when you talk players, when you talk to our facility staff, it still didn’t play well and still wasn’t very healthy out there,” Hall said.
The Diamondbacks spent the last year researching the Shaw turf. They visited the Georgia-based company and Auburn University to test it.
Players from the team’s Single-A club in Visalia tested it out on a baseball field, finding that baseballs hopped consistently off the turf, according to Hall. The move to synthetic turf will save the team money on its water bill and electric bill.
The team expects a 90 percent savings, or two million gallons, in water consumption.
“Baseball has done research all year long, along with Shaw, they’ve been out at Auburn University to test all this. This isn’t like what you’ve seen in the past. It’s not like an astroturf,” Hall said. “This synthetic grass is going to be consistent, it’s going to look great. It’s about fan experience where — I have heard for the last couple of years how hot and miserable fans have been in this building and that’s because we’ve had to keep direct sunlight on this grass that’s not growing right anyways.
“We’re not going to have the slippage. It’s going to actually improve the health of our players. This is not an easy decision but it’s going to be a good one.”