Athletic department officials do not believe that the field at Bart Kaufman Field is the first of kind, but it is certainly rare. The new home to Hoosier baseball features no dirt anywhere on the field. Turf fields are undoubtedly commonplace in place in modern baseball, but a turf field usually features dirt on the base paths, or at least around the plate and on the mound. This IU photo gallery shows the AstroTurf field, including the turf mound and warning track.
Over the years, turf baseball fields have gained popularity. As turf has become more commonplace, the amount of dirt on artificial fields has decreased. First, dirt on the base paths was reduced to the areas directly around the bases. Next, turf fields with only dirt in the area around the plate and on the mound appeared. In recent years, teams like Ohio State, Louisville, and Virginia Tech have unveiled turf fields that only have dirt on the mound. But Bart Kaufman Field takes it to the next level with an all turf mound. At least one other totally dirt-less field is thought to exist. Consol Energy Park is shared by a high school team and an independent minor league team and in Pennsylvania. The Hoosiers new home could very well be the first all turf field in college baseball.
Last season, two northern teams made it to the College World Series. Part of Kent State and Stony Brook’s success was credited to an unseasonably warm winter which allowed both teams more on-field practice than in normal offseasons. While the bitter cold keeps many teams indoors, the effect of winter weather on field conditions should not be overlooked. Indiana’s Associate Athletic Director for Facilities Eric Neuburger says the all turf field will allow significantly increased field on-time for the Hoosier baseball program.
At the Division I level, postseason baseball host sites are awarded to programs based on merit, though teams ranked number one have been outbid for the right to host in the past. As a ranked team with an outstanding facility, Indiana has a serious shot at hosting a regional. This should come as a welcome change for NCAA as many, including Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany, have claimed that baseball’s early start date is unfair to northern teams and makes it impossible for them succeed or host postseason events.
While baseball traditionalists may cringe at thought of a diamond without dirt, the benefits are too overwhelming for northern programs to pass up. The profound impact on off-season training regimens will be very tempting for coaches and administrators of teams located in regions with less than ideal baseball climates. Having a field that is suitable for play year-round could be a major recruiting asset for northern teams. Look for more turf only fields to pop around the country in the future.
Luke Mashburn is a Game Day Operations Specialist at Kennesaw State University. You can follow him on Twitter @L_Mashburn.