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Baseball field to get Major League clay

Posted August. 22, 2014 03:15,   


I’ve come far and wide to this land. Buried 50m underground in the Dawson Canyon in California, U.S., I have crossed the Pacific Ocean to Korea. Icheon, Gyeonggi, which is well-known for its good earth and water, is my new home.

I should introduce myself. I am the clay that is laid on American Major League baseball stadiums. Recognized for high quality in the U.S., I go to multiple baseball venues. My pals have established themselves at the Dodgers Stadium where Ryu Hyun-jin of the LA Dodgers plays, and the Petco Park in San Diego where Park Chan-ho once played.

Word of mouth must have reached Korea. I am sought after a lot by Korean baseball fields. Last year, Jamsil Baseball Stadium and Masan Baseball Stadium put me on their grounds. Now I am not just in first-tier but also in second-tier practice pitches where promising young players train.

LG plans to open an LG Champions Park in Icheon, Gyeonggi Province on August 22. It is equipped with world-class facilities including two baseball pitches, comfortable accommodations and multi-purpose rehabilitation center. The parent company LG Electronics has even installed the latest plasma lighting which gives a similar feel to photovoltaic lights.

But the basis of each baseball field is the ground, and at the core of each ground is the clay.

It might look all the same to fans, but a wide variety of clay is used in baseball fields. On the mounds which dent with footmarks from the pitchers’ spikes, hard clay. Infield lines use softer clay. On the Champions Park mound which is the home pitch for KIA is “Mound Clay,” while in the infield, an “Infield Mix,” which has fine, smooth particles. The Mound Clay does not dent easily which gives a feeling of stability to pitchers. The Infield mix also does not dent easily and does not form lumps, thereby preventing irregular bounces.

There, they put baked clay, named conditioner. When water is sprayed in usual times, the clay holds in moisture on dry days, and supply moisture to the infield mix or mound clay. Conversely, on rainy days, the clay absorbs water.

It looks simple but needs expert technology. The head ground keeper of Petco Park came to Korea to spread the clay on Champions Park in person. He is not a simple ground manager. Even Major League athletes cannot enter the ground without his permission. During matches, he supervises ten employees. The key to ground management is moisture management. It depends on when, how the clay is watered. In the Major League, some say it takes a decade to learn just how to handle the water spray.

Now it has facilities on par with Major League baseball, now what only remains is to match the level of play in the Major League. Will LG, which was dubbed the “Grave of promising players” recreate itself into a cradle of up-and-comers?