New artificial turf infield adds excitement for Hudson baseball team
After the 2020 high school baseball season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a big boost for the Hudson baseball team knowing when it returned for 2021 there would be a new artificial turf infield waiting for the Explorers at their home field.
"It was awesome," senior captain and first baseman Corey Strazek said after Hudson's 10-7 loss to Wooster on Saturday. "Especially with the season being canceled, it was like a little boost when we got to come back for us to come back to this nice field.
"It all around has helped us out with practice and has overall made us better as a program. It's just so easy to walk out there. It could be 30 degrees and the outfield could be soaked, but when you walk on the turf it feels totally dry."
The thought of playing on artificial turf is something that likely makes baseball purists scratch their heads.
But nevertheless, given when the Ohio high school baseball season is played, there are benefits to having an artificial turf infield (the outfield remains all grass) especially when weather can be more winter-like and rainy through the early part of the season.
"There are a lot of traditionalists who prefer to play on grass," Hudson coach Buddy Dice said. "In an ideal world, that's what you want. However, living in northeast Ohio, most of the days aren't this nice. ... Northeast Ohio is usually wet, especially this time of year in the spring. This year has been a little odd with the warm days we've had. However, we've been able to come out here and play pretty regularly."
Gone are the days of canceled games and practices, or having to practice inside in the school gym because of a soggy field.
"We're so thankful to be able to have it," senior captain and outfielder Connor Rubin said. "A couple years ago we would have to play inside or our practice would get canceled. The fact that we can play outside even when it's a little colder and rainy, it's just the best."
There had been talks of upgrading the infield to turf over the last few years, Dice said.
Renovations to the ballpark took a step forward in October 2020 when the Hudson school board officially accepted a donation of turf.
"Several years ago I met with our superintendent, Mr. [Phil] Herman, as well as former athletic director Mr. [Bryan] Bedford," Dice said. "We went through a few different business managers in these meetings and just said, 'Hey, there are some people that want to make something happen of this magnitude.' Luckily last spring we were given the green light to do it. It was kind of a long process with making sure everything is in place. Most importantly it's the generous donations of some people who made it happen."
Dice said there were "close to 90" donors, including the Hudson Diamond Club, which dealt with most of the logistics. FieldTurf installed the actual playing surface with The Vasco Group doing the civil work.
Construction began in late fall of 2020, pausing in December due to winter. Last-minute touches were finalized in the past month.
The final walkthrough was two weeks ago, but Dice said the Explorers were still able to hold parts of tryouts on the new surface at the end of February.
It also isn't solely the Hudson (2-1) varsity team that gets to enjoy the new infield.
"On a regular weekend, not necessarily Easter Sunday, we'll also have our youth organizations out there as well using the turf, using the facility," Dice said. "Having lights, too, we're able to get multiple practices in each day of the week, which is nice. Everyone's excited to get out there."
The turf has also cut down on field prep time and clean-up work.
Players still have to rake the field after a game, but it's not as time consuming as dragging the dirt and cutting the infield grass would be on a normal field.
As far as playing goes, the players say it's also been easy to adapt to the little changes turf brings, specifically the game playing much "cleaner."
"It's much harder to make errors on a turf field," Strazek said. "You're just not going to get a bad hop. As long as you stay down, you're going to be able to make the play, basically."