The lead story in yesterday’s Dallas Morning News sports section was about what surface the Rangers are going to install in the new Ballpark.
Real turf or artificial turf?
Of course, every baseball purist wants it to be the real deal. Grass. The way baseball was meant to be played. On grass. Outside. Under the light of day. With pitchers hitting for themselves.
Oh, ah, never mind. Pardon the old man rant.
Every baseball purist has unfond memories of Astroturf, that ugly green abomination of plastic shag carpet which spread like a cancer in the 1960s and ’70s. But Astroturf was really never anything more than a desperate response to grass not being able to grow in the Astrodome. When it was originally opened, the idea was to grow grass inside this new “Eighth Wonder of the World.” To do that required sunlight. The roof of the Astrodome was originally clear glass panels to let the sunlight flood in.
Unfortunately, that created blinding reflections for the players every time they had to look up. Like for pop-ups and fly balls. Or to ask God why they were in Houston. So, to combat that, they tinted the glass tiles. Which made the grass die.
Houston panicked and resurfaced the Astrodome with plastic grass. It was horrible in every way possible. It was a thin sheet of fakeness laid on top of a thick slap of hard concrete. It killed players knees. It killed their backs. It killed the joy of baseball.
But it was cheap. And it could accommodate the concerts, football games, baseball games and any other event these boring multipurpose stadiums would host. Players be damned.
Baseball has pretty much rid itself of the scourge of fake grass. Until now.
The Arizona Diamondbacks, having trouble growing grass in their retractable roof stadium, made the decision to rip out the grass this offseason and install a synthetic surface, reversing a twenty-year trend going the other way.
The Rangers have been monitoring the situation closely, seeing how hard it’s been to keep grass growing consistently in Phoenix, and using what happens this upcoming season there to inform their final decision.
The difference now though is how far synthetic turf has come. A company called Shaw Sports has created a turf that, according to all reports, is as good or better than grass in every way imaginable. How it plays. How it feels. And, most important, how it treats player safety. That is really the most important factor of all.
This new generation synthetic turf is called B1K (for batting one thousand). According to Evan Grant, the biggest difference between now and then is what is called “infill,” or what is mixed into the artificial blades of grass. It used to be small rubber pellets. Now, it’s a combination of sand and crushed coconut husks.
In test after test after test, this turf performed like grass.
The fact that the Rangers keep bringing up the possibility of going synthetic suggests that they have already made up their minds. That stories like yesterday’s are trial balloons, thrown out there in the media to see what fans have to say. That way, when they finally announce their decision, it won’t be a surprise.
It’s not that the Rangers haven’t made up their minds, it’s that they haven’t made up their minds yet on how they are going to break the news.
After everything I’ve read about this new generation of synthetic turf, thought, it appears it’s going to be okay.
It’s fake. And it’s spectacular.
Or, to put it another way, it’s coming. So we are all going to have to embrace it.