March 26, 2013 - 6:40pm
BY ALEX TAYLOR
Starting in the fall of 2014, visitors to Ray Fisher Stadium, home of the Michigan baseball team, will no longer be able smell the fresh cut grass or hear the crunch of the dirt underneath player’s spikes.
This is because Michigan will replace its current natural field at the Wilpon Complex with an all-turf surface.
“Thank God for us, we are actually getting a turf field next year at the end of the summer, which will be a huge boost for us,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich on WTKA last week.
The switch to a turf surface offers advantages to teams, but especially to teams playing in northern states. The turf will allow the Wolverines to practice outside on their field much earlier in the year, as they will not have to wait for the ground to thaw or for the snow to clear.
In addition to getting on the field earlier in the season, the effects of weather in the middle of the season will be considerably less. Michigan will be able to play in virtually every situation except in the case of thunderstorms. The Wolverines have already had four home games cancelled this year and had two home games cancelled last year.
The addition of the turf field also helps shorten the gap between teams from the south and teams from the north. Teams in the south can practice for most of the year outside, while northern teams are typically stuck inside. The turf will allow Michigan to be outside for more of the year, similar to their southern counterparts.
This addition time outside might also help when it comes to recruiting. The coaching staff can now pitch recruits on the ability to practice outside for most of the year. This could help keep local recruits in Michigan rather than fleeing for warmer weather or bring kids from southern states to Michigan.
The turf field will also add a different dimension to the actual on-field play. Turf baseball fields are typically much faster than traditional natural surfaces. This will allow speed to play a bigger factor in games. Turf fields also offer the luxury of always having an even surface. This will make it easier on the defense since the ball will always bounce true, eliminating bad hops altogether.
The turf field is also bouncier and baseballs pick up speed while on the carpet. This will cause fielders to utilize different angles while making a play on the ball due to the increase in speed. The speed of the field will also cause fielders to play at different depths because the ball will get on them much quicker.
These conditions seemingly fit perfect with the style of play Bakich has been emphasizing - which is a quick paced game that relies on defense and pitching.
The installation of the turf field will be the second major renovation to Ray Fisher stadium in recent years. In 2008, it underwent a $9 million renovation to the stadium and to new baseball facilities.