The Texas Rangers announced their new ballpark Globe Life Field will have artificial turf when it opens in 2020.
The club, from general manager Jon Daniels to executive vice president of business operations Rob Matwick to senior medical operations and sports science director Jamie Reed, all shared similar stories with how the decision came to be last week. All agreed that they originally envisioned having natural grass in the retractable-roof Globe Life Field.
Those three, along with representatives from Shaw Sports Turf, explained why synthetic grass was the best move for the new stadium, why this turf will be unlike previous artificial turfs and how it will benefit both the Rangers and fans.
Here, in their own words, they explain how they came to their decision:
Rob Matwick: We certainly looked at grass from the beginning. The ballpark was designed to accommodate grass. The challenge with grass in retractable roof stadiums is they are not consistent from foul line to foul line. Arizona, for 20 years, tried to grow natural grass. This year, they finally said enough. We think it’s better from foul pole to foul pole. Better conditions, better safety for the players. We challenged Shaw [Sports Turf]. We said we are not going to consider this unless we have the best surface in Major League Baseball. We believe we have accomplished that and have the consistency from foul line to foul line.
Jamie Reed: I got involved in this study to make sure this was the best possible synthetic playing surface for our players to play on. I’m very confident this is going to be best artificial playing surface in the game. It will be the safest for our players and for the fans, aesthetically it is going to look like a natural field. I’m really confident this is going to be a great product.
Philipe Aldahir (Shaw Sports Turf director of research and innovation): There are three main keys to making a field play with excellence: one is the surface itself. What do we need to do to make the surface handle the ball bounce? We have been to a dozen natural grass venues to baseline what those properties needed to be. Second, how can we replicate that with artificial components? So when you start tweaking the fabric with the padding below, you start getting closer or further away from natural grass. We found this turf to be closest to natural grass playing ability. We went out and looked at natural fields and made our baseline properties look the same. Lastly, making sure the surface is compliant with player performance and player safety. We collaborated with institutions to make sure the surface has a similar feel as natural grass.
Chuck McClurg (Shaw Sports Turf vice president): We do have a year to learn. We are not going to stop learning just because we are announcing today. Research is on-going and anything we learn, we will apply. This is a system that is more manageable to increase or lower the speed [of the reaction to the ball]. This is designed for this specific environment. This one is based on our research and studies here [at Globe Life Park] in Arlington.
Matwick: One of the things that will be different too is this will be a permanent installation. We don’t intend on putting this surface down and then roll it off and take it off the field let’s say if we were moving a concert in. We will treat it like grass. So this will be a permanent installation, specific to this building, specific to the Rangers and then we’ll study it. After each homestand next year we’ll come in and test and make sure we’re meeting those standards that we’ve set to match us to our current ballpark to make sure we’re consistent throughout the year.
Jon Daniels: I think we all started from the same place, which is baseball, ballpark, grass. But then as you start to dig into it, not just from the evidence-based studies these guys worked on, but just talking to the players, talking to agents. I didn’t get a sense that it was going to be an issue for anybody. Players questions were over the past year or so, they were more curious about how it was going to play. The bounce in the outfield. Questions about the ball bouncing over people’s heads. We’ve clearly learned that the difference in synthetic fields are very different and we can control those. What I was naive to was how different the [natural] grass fields are around the league. And even how different the individual fields are week to week if they had an event there. The consistency element we’re going to be able to have is pretty meaningful. The question was: What quality of field will it be? And ultimately I think the decision came down was we feel like this will be a more consistent, higher quality field than we can provide than a grass surface at this point.