Dragging Baseball Fields
posted on November 6th 2005 by Troy Frazier
Dragging baseball fields is a very important part of routine maintenance. Dragging levels out the field, loosens dirt, removes cleat marks, and makes the field look nice. Most fields are drug before every game. The pros even drag fields between innings.
Basically field drags come in two major categories. The first is a spike drag. Spike drags are used to dig about a quarter to half an inch into the soil to loosen it up. This becomes extremely important during hot dry weather. The clay in baseball mix dirt gets hard, and the playing surface becomes unusable. The first image on the right is a basic picture of a spike drag.
This particular drag needs to have its spikes replaced. The spikes should be one to two inches long. The best spike drags I've ever seen were made by parent volunteers who work with welding. It's important to make the spikes replaceable, because even with the best metal the spikes will wear down after a season of use. Cinder blocks are often stacked on top of the drag to give it more weight. I've also seen players stand on them, but I wouldn't recommend it.
The second category of drag is a finish drag (see second picture on right). Finish drags are used after a spike drag to smooth out the surface, and break up dirt clots. Finished drags can be purchased for anywhere between 50 and hundreds of dollars depending on size, and material. Essentially a finish drag is a metal conveyer belt. If one of the parents in your organization has access to used conveyer belts you'll be able to make this yourself.
Now that you have your drag you'll need a means for pulling it around the field. I've seen some coaches make their players do this by hand. It's kind of mean, but it's fun to watch. Most organizations on a tight budget use a good riding lawn mower, or an old farm tractor. When using a riding lawn mower be cautious of how much weight you are pulling. Finish drags will pick up a lot of dirt if the soil is moist, and it's not hard to get a couple hundred pounds of dirt caught in the field drag. This of course will break even the best riding mower.
Organizations with larger budgets should consider getting a piece of equipment designed for dragging fields. We have a lot of experience with Smithco units (see third picture on right). Equipment of this sort has a spike drag on the underbelly, and a finish drag on the back. The particular unit shown also has a blade in the front with can be handy for minor field renovations. Our biggest complaint about the Smithco is the amount of maintenance it requires. It's designed to handle the dirt and grime better than a riding lawn mower, but it still breaks a lot if you use it to maintain several fields.
While dragging, resist the temptation to make the same pattern every time. This will cause low spots, and bumps in the field. It's also important not to get too close to the edge of the skinned infield, dragging too close to the edge will cause a 'lip' to form around the skinned infield. We generally stay 6 inches away from the edge when dragging. Regardless of what you use to drag the field, make sure you clean and grease it regularly. The dust and grim is really hard on any equipment you might use.
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