ALWS home field getting upgrades
Workers scrape excess dirt from the infield at Veterans Field at Keeter Stadium in Shelby, N.C. Photo by Hal Hastings.

ALWS home field getting upgrades

For two weeks in February and early March, the American Legion World Series home was crawling with trucks, graders and specialized equipment, sometimes from early morning into the evening hours.

Workers at Veterans Field at Keeter Stadium in Shelby, N.C., literally skinned the dirt off the base paths, the pitcher’s mound and home plate and replaced it with a tailored combination of sand, silt, and clay.

The result is a safer and highly playable surface that requires less maintenance than the previous soil.

DuraEdge Products Inc., of Grove City, Pa., brought in 125 tons of materials to upgrade the infield.

Installer Nolan Thomas and Co. of Oxford, N.C., spent the first eight hours measuring and entering data into a computer-aided design (CAD) system. Then they removed excess dirt and laser-graded each area before adding the corky new playing surface. They gave special attention to home plate and the pitcher’s mound with additional products that prevent the formation of trenches where players dig in for their best stances.

DuraEdge Products evaluates each field for its soil content and factors in climate before recommending a tailored combination of infield mix and outlining a maintenance program to sustain it. The clay is from western Pennsylvania and proponents say it is more consistent in the way it handles moisture than clay from other locations. The maintenance program is driven by moisture management.

“This field could last 10-20 years with the proper upkeep,” said Luke Yoder, senior vice president of business development for DuraEdge and a former groundskeeper for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the San Diego Padres.

Since teams play at least 80 games a year on Veterans Field, Yoder recommends that it be laser graded once a year to maintain the quality.

“There are three authorized installers in your area, so maintaining positive surface drainage won’t be a problem,” Yoder said.

DuraEdge spent three hours teaching the maintenance guidelines to Shelby High School baseball officials, Cleveland County American Legion Baseball officials and members of the field crew for the American Legion World Series.

“Your teams are playing on a big-league surface,” Yoder said. “Eighty-six percent of MLB teams play on DuraEdge. Of the 120 minor league teams, 105 play on DuraEdge. There is a lot of science behind what we do. There is nobody else in our industry that provides specific engineered soils for ballfields.”

In January 2024, DuraEdge announced a partnership with Minor League Baseball that made DuraEdge the “official infield mix, mound clay, topdressing and warning track materials of MiLB.”

The infield project at Keeter Stadium came in at approximately $69,000 and qualified for the specifications listed in a 2023 grant from the N.C. Department of Commerce.

In other turf news, Leif Hamrick, owner of Foothills Sportsturf Inc., reported in March that the rye grass was growing in, and he had applied fertilizer with a pre-emergent herbicide for the weeds. He had scheduled a liquid fertilizer application for late April, in time for the April 30 Wake Forest-Appalachian State game on the field.

Even with the heavy use, Hamrick believes no major work will be needed on Veterans Field for at least three years.

“Providing a safe, first-class experience for the teams making their way to Keeter Stadium from across the nation to compete in the ALWS has been and always will be our No. 1 goal,” said Daniel Sherman, project coordinator for Cleveland County Schools and a dedicated member of the ALWS field crew. “The addition of the DuraEdge infield skin and clay products will not only raise the bar for safety and quality but also provide a more manageable surface for the field crew to maintain. I look forward to working with these products to provide the players with a professional experience when they earn the right to compete on Veterans Field.”


American Legion Baseball

American Legion Baseball

American Legion Baseball enjoys a reputation as one of the most successful and tradition-rich amateur athletic leagues. Today, the program registers more than 5,400 teams in all 50 states, including Canada and Puerto Rico.

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