After three decades of use, Andover’s baseball diamond was renovated due to the dangerous conditions and limited game time it had caused.
According to Andover Baseball Head Coach Kevin Graber, the main safety concern was ‘lips’ where the clay met the grass, caused by the buildup of clay on the borders of grass and dirt.
“Over the course of three decades, what’s happened is, there’s been [a] migration of clay from the field’s dirt areas leaking and spreading onto the grass areas. This has caused major build-up where dirt meets grass, and it’s formed what are called ‘lips,’” said Coach Graber.
These lips create drop-offs in the areas around the home plate, first base, and third base, making those spots unsafe for fielders to step on while chasing a ball.
Coach Graber said, “Lips are really dangerous in baseball, in our case, they caused significant drop-offs behind first base, behind third base, and behind home plate. In other words, it was flat on the dirt and then it dropped off where it met the grass, pretty drastically. So imagine a catcher, and a pop-up is hit behind home plate, and the catcher stands up, turns around, he’s running after it, he’s got his eyes in the air on that baseball, he’s running after it on flat ground, flat dirt, and with his eyes up on the ball, all of a sudden, boom, there’s a dropoff underneath his feet.”
According to Coach Graber, the baseball diamond in use in previous years no longer meets regulation standards for the shape of the pitcher’s mound because its shape has changed over time.
“A regulation pitcher’s mound is supposed to slope downward from a height of ten inches downward toward home plate at a rate of one inch per foot over a span of six feet. Our mound was flat and a baseball diamond with a flat mound is sort of like playing on a basketball court with baskets that are too low, or a soccer field with goals that aren’t regulation size,” wrote Coach Graber in an email to The Phillipian.
Thomas White ’23 voiced the frustrations he had with the mound last year but is excited to play on the newly renovated mound.
“I was frustrated last year for sure, the way I pitch and my mechanics and me being a taller guy make pitching on a flat surface very difficult. I know some guys on the team felt the same as well. However, with the new mound up now which looks so so good, I cannot wait to get on it,” wrote White in an email to The Phillipian.
The aforementioned lips also stopped infield rainwater from draining out onto the outfield and foul territory. Graber says this occurrence was particularly dangerous for baseball, and that they were forced to suspend many games because of inclimate weather.
“Baseball, when it rains, it becomes really dangerous, because you’re throwing a wet ball 90 miles an hour at other human beings. You know, your footing has to be good, and it’s something that is baseball and softball-related that doesn’t really affect other sports. When it rains, a field that is flat will drain well, and the chances that the game can be played are greater. The condition our field was in prohibited that. The lips… had dammed the drainage from infield to outfield, and from infield to foul territory. So we could have half our games rained out in a given year depending on the weather. We’d rather be able to play games than sit there and not be able to play,” said Coach Graber.
Coach Graber says that the condition of the field was a consequence of time, and not mishandling by the grounds people, whom he describes as “the best in the world.”
“Our grounds people and our physical plant, from Kevin Block to Andy Thomson, to their entire crew, are literally the best in the world in my opinion. They do an amazing job maintaining their baseball diamond, grooming it, making sure the grass was cut, and it’s beautiful and green… what happened with our field was just a product of just decades of this phenomenon happening, and nothing that they can do about it or they could control,” said Coach Graber.
White reiterated his excitement to play on the newly renovated field, describing it as the premier diamond in the league.
“I’m super excited [to play on the field]! The field looks amazing, and the guys did a great job on it. It’s the best high school baseball field in the league right now and for it to be our home field is just awesome,” wrote White in an email to The Phillipian.
The newly renovated field will first be used for games in March 2022.