Texas Rangers choose “synthetic grass” for Globe Life Field: Analyzing the decision in this turf war aftermath

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ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 30: A view of the construction site for Globe Life Field on September 30, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 30: A view of the construction site for Globe Life Field on September 30, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /
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The Texas Rangers will be installing turf in Globe Life Field. Did they really do their due diligence in thinking this one through?

March 29, 2018. Opening Day for the Texas Rangers 2018 season. This was my first experience with the sacred spring day which notes winter has subsided and finally, “it’s baseball time in Texas.”

I have many memories from this experience: The roar from the crowd going absolutely ballistic when Adrian Beltre was introduced. The lack of John Fogerty being played over the loudspeakers (my opening day stereotype was crushed). And an inebriated Astros fan going off on a Rangers fan for rooting for a team that declined to switch homes series in 2017.

Ah, baseball.

One of my more vivid memories from last year’s Opening Day was not in the stadium at all, but on the way to the first base gate. It was the first time I had seen the monstrous construction site that will someday become Globe Life Field and the new home of the Texas Rangers.

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ARLINGTON, TX – SEPTEMBER 19: Mallex Smith #0 of the Tampa Bay Rays fields a fly ball against the Texas Rangers in the bottom of the sixth inning at Globe Life Park in Arlington on September 19, 2018 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

I turned to my dad, who was sitting next to me on the shuttle to the stadium, and said, “There it is, the new ballpark.” I then proceeded to update my dad on the current controversy in which the Rangers were deciding whether to plant real grass or lay turf down on the playing surface.

Surprised they may not put real grass in, my dad asked, “Why wouldn’t they?” I told him all about how everyone was saying the playing field is going to be 70 feet below street level. I explained the concern of keeping the grass alive without jeopardizing the primary benefit of a retractable roof — 72 degree baseball games. If the grass was to stay alive, the roof would have to be open to let in the proper amount of sunlight. If the roof is open, the heat comes in, and the fans are uncomfortable.

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My dad, a career landscaper and horticulturist, shakes his head and says, “That’s just like any building construction project. The last thing they think about is the landscaping.”

Fast forward to January 31, 2019 and what everyone expected became official. The Texas Rangers announced that Globe Life Field would have “synthetic grass,” or more infamously known as, “artificial turf.”

The general fan reaction has been mostly negative. Many fans have exclaimed, “baseball is meant to be played on grass!” Others are worried about potential physical hazards to players while playing on turf. Also, some folks believe synthetic grass could steer free agents away from Arlington.

Many beat writers, such as T.R. Sullivan, have attempted to temper this reaction by iterating this is not the AstroTurf of the ’60s or the stuff found currently in Rogers Centre (Toronto Blue Jays) or Tropicana Field (Tampa Bay Rays). Rather, it is, as The Dallas Morning News’ Evan Grant details, a supposed “next-generation artificial turf” produced by Shaw Sports Turf, and called “B1K,” which stands for “Batting 1.000.”

It is supposed to be safer than regular grass and is expected to play as identical to grass as possible. This is achieved through an innovative turf infill that includes crushed coconut, as opposed to sand and rubble like what can be found in Toronto and Tampa.

There are certainly pros and cons to the Texas Rangers’ decision. Here are a few to consider:

 Pros

  1. As mentioned, this is supposed to be a safer material than grass. There is no question player safety was considered in making this decision.
  2. It allows for a multipurpose venue. Remember the 2017 season when the Rangers had those awful outlines in the outfield from a winter golf event? Yeah, that won’t happen again.

Cons

  1. It’s not grass. Those saying, “baseball is meant to be played on grass!” have a legitimate argument. Of all the major sports in America, baseball by far seems to have the most “sacred cows.” Playing on grass and playing outdoors are two of them.
  2. Uncertainty. We do not know what this surface is going to play like in fullness. The Arizona Diamondbacks are installing the same material this year, so the Rangers won’t be trying it alone. We cannot yet know what kind of effect, if any, it could have on player health or the Rangers’ ability to lure free agents. Of course, there is uncertainty on how the synthetic grass will play in terms of hitting, pitching, and fielding.

Only time will tell if this is the right move for the Rangers. There is no question that grass is the popular vote. Grass is tradition; it is ideal. If the Rangers begin to win again, however, nobody will care what material they’re playing on!

Regardless, it seems as if this was the only move given the Rangers’ current predicament and inability to maintain grass theoretically with the new ballpark design. You might wonder, was the playing surface considered much when plans were initially made for Globe Life Field? A former Texas Rangers’ head groundskeeper weighed in with an answer:

Did GM Jon Daniels win the offseason?. dark. Next

If what he said is true, therein lies the true point of contention. Perhaps this all could have been avoided by choosing a different way of designing and structuring Globe Life Field. The reality is turf is on its way and this is going to be a vastly different venue than what fans are used to. It makes for a bittersweet time in Texas Rangers history.

Farewell, Ballpark in Arlington.

Hello turf and 72 degrees.

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