Just read an interesting article on the stuff...didn't think about the speed of the ball slowing down and how that effects your team...
The good and the bad of Metrodome's new turf
La Velle E. Neal III, Star Tribune
April 5, 2004
A new carpet that has brightened up the Metrodome and provided for softer landings also leaves some Twins wondering how it might affect their playing style.
"It's a complete 180 from what we're used to," Twins first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz said. "Hopefully it gets faster. The only thing we had at home was that the speed of the game was faster. This takes away a lot of what we do as a team. But if it keeps guys off the disabled list, you have to take the good with the bad."
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said he's grateful for the more forgiving surface.
"It's soft out there," he said. "We were looking for something that would not kill our knees and back and, when you dive, would not rip your skin off."
Torii Hunter, who knows a thing or two about ripped-off skin, said he's just as impressed with the aesthetics of the new field.
"It looks good," Hunter said. "It looks like a ballpark, actually."
Those were a few of the initial reactions to FieldTurf, the synthetic grass that replaced the old, hard AstroTurf at the Metrodome. It's perhaps the most significant change to the playing area since the plexiglass was removed from the left field wall after 1993.
Groundskeeping guru George Toma was flown to the Twin Cities to oversee final installation of the field, particularly the pitching mound and the dirt around the bases.
One concern, expressed by some players who worked out on the surface for the first time Sunday, is how the change from fake carpet to fake grass might change their style of play. Every ball that touched the ground Sunday slowed down significantly.
In the past, the Twins have benefited from high bounces and squibbed hits that have rolled through the infield.
Scouts in recent years have deemed the Twins perfectly suited for turf play. It's a description some with the Twins don't embrace. They say Minnesota scored 399 runs on 255 extra-base hits at home last season, compared with 402 runs on 263 extra-base hits on the road. Still, opponents such as Yankees manager Joe Torre warned against letting the Twins "loose on that surface."
Now, the Twins will play on a surface that features blades of fabricated grass and tiny rubberized chips, which resemble dirt. A similar field covers Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., where Tampa Bay plays. The Devil Rays have a full dirt infield while the Twins will continue to have dirt cutouts around each base.
The Twins have been told the blades will loosen up more as the season goes along and the rubber bits will settle into the surface, which will allow for faster play.
Slow, however, might not be all bad. Opponents' hits that scooted through the infield now might be caught, giving the Twins' standout infielders more opportunities to show off their defensive prowess.
"It is slower but still faster than [real] grass," Devil Rays General Manager Chuck LaMar said. "For the teams like Minnesota who have an outstanding defensive team anyway, I think their defense will show up more on this surface as well. They will find out once they get used to it."
That's exactly what infield coach Al Newman wants to hear. Newman has tutored shortstop Cristian Guzman and second baseman Luis Rivas over the past two seasons and said both have had good springs and could benefit from the surface.
"Defensively, it should help our pitchers, which should help our infielders because their range increases," Newman said. "I know [Guzman and Rivas] have taken a lot of hits for the balls they don't catch. Now that it's a fairer surface, the true athletes will succeed, and I know we have good athletes."
In addition, Guzman, Rivas and a few other Twins could use the bunt as a weapon.
"The surface is easier to bunt on," LaMar said. "It's not as fast. We found it easier to get bunts down."
"You didn't think about bunting on the old stuff," he said. "Everything would roll foul. This year, we can take advantage of that more."
Instead of fretting about losing the fast track, Gardenhire was thinking of ways to take advantage of a surface that a couple of Twins coaches feel is slower than grass.
"It's definitely slower, no doubt, but we like it," Gardenhire said. "We have to see how we play on it. There's going to be some funny things happen as we go along here. The ball is going to stop as it goes through the infield, where it used to keep on rolling. If we can use our speed, we can take advantage of those things. It could be fun.
"We talked to our baserunners about going hard to first base when they get a base hit. Because if the ball stops out there, you might be able to take two. With our speed, we can try to stretch singles into doubles."
Sunday's workout included fielding practice, throws to home plate, popups and batting practice.
The players didn't mind the introductory session. While there's concern over how the game will be played on the new surface, it was good riddance to the old stuff.
"It was like patchwork," Twins General Manager Terry Ryan said of the AstroTurf. "They would get a seamstress to come in and fill in some of the gaps. They did a reasonable job. When we'd get in the postseason, the commissioner's office would come in and we'd have to walk the stadium. You'd get a pretty good idea walking through there that there were areas that weren't too appealing."