LSU spruces up Alex Box Stadium

Paul Mainieri kneeled down and jokingly tried to rip a blade of grass from Skip Bertman Field.

It didn’t budge.

“Les (Miles) wouldn’t be able to coach on this field,” the LSU baseball coach said chuckling. “He can’t eat the grass.”

Well, part of it.

Skip Bertman Field at Alex Box Stadium received a cosmetic addition earlier this month: about 20,000 square feet of green and orange artificial turf was installed in the field’s entire foul territory.

Foul grass was replaced with green artificial turf, and foul warning tracks and walking paths are now orange turf.

The cost was $50,000-$100,000, said Eric Fasbender, LSU’s assistant director of athletic facilities and grounds.

The turf, installed by Baton Rouge-based GEO Surfaces in about two weeks, covers all of the foul territory: from one outfield wall to the other, spreading in front of each dugout and around home plate.

The turf was added, Mainieri and Fasbender said, as a way to spruce up the swath down the first- and third-base lines. Those areas, originally grass, receive a small amount of sunlight in winter months, causing dead and damp grass for weeks at a time.

They receive about one to one and a half hours of sunlight from November to February because of the stadium’s giant overhangs, Fasbender said.

“It was impossible to grow grass,” Mainieri said. “It became somewhat of an eye sore.”

There were already some artificial areas around home plate. Those were replaced with the new turf to conform with the home plate area, a design modeled after the Milwaukee Brewers’ Miller Park.

The orange turf on the field’s foul warning track and walking paths is filled with sand, giving it a different feel than the normal green turf, which holds small rubber pieces.

The orange turf, at 1-inch in height, is nearly an inch shorter than the green turf.

The warning track was a year or two from needing to be replaced, Fasbender said. Because it was in the shaded area through winter, water would pool on the track and sit, breeding mildew.

Players have slipped on the track while chasing foul balls. Catcher Ty Ross did it last season, Fasbender said. He crashed into the backstop wall when his feet slid on the damp warning track.

Mainieri has a plan to stretch the orange artificial track into fair territory around the outfield walls.

LSU’s other playing surfaces — the infield, base paths and outfield — will remain natural grass and clay, the coach said.

“The less time the maintenance people have to spend here,” Mainieri said, standing on the new turf in foul territory and pointing toward the playing field, “the more time they have to spend out there making it nice.”

Outside of a natural clay mound, the bullpens, in the left- and right-field foul areas, are now artificial turf.

Mainieri said he “toyed” with the idea of moving the bullpens in front of the outfield bleachers.

That would mean bringing in the stadium’s fences by about 30 feet. The power alleys, about 375 feet now, would be 345 if the school decided on that route.

The idea is on the back burner, Mainieri said. The deep fences of TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, the home of the College World Series, may keep it from happening.

“We haven’t gotten too deep of discussion about it. I only broached the subject with (Athletic Director Joe Alleva),” Mainieri said.

“The way that Omaha is playing, I don’t know that I want to have a field that’s dramatically different.

“With the change to the bats and roster limits, it’s taken a lot of the offense out of the game, which is a concern of mine and always has been.”

LSU baseball, ranked No. 3 in the Collegiate Baseball preseason poll, begins practice for Jan. 24 and starts the season Feb. 14 with a home game against New Orleans.