The West Jones baseball field will have a new look in the upcoming 2022 season. The roughly 350 thousand dollar project to turf the infield at West Jones has been completed.
"It's really nice and low maintenance," said West Jones head coach Trey Sutton. "We're still trying to wrap our heads around the fact that it happened.”
Two years ago, West Jones turfed the bullpen areas near the left and right field walls. Shortly after that, a conversation about turfing the infield began.
"They asked me how much it would cost to turf the infield, and I replied a lot," Sutton said with a laugh. "Things took off from there, and here we are with a nice new turf infield."
The program's booster club raised money for the project with help from the Soso community.
"We raised money through the [West Jones Baseball] Booster Club and a lot of donations throughout the community," said Sutton. "The community's response was unbelievable. Ever since I've been here, the community has worked to make things happen every time I've asked for something.
"We had a lot of people in the community who donated equipment too. We've even had our kids help with the trench work for the drainage underneath the surface. Everyone came out of the woodworks to make it happen."
Sutton played on a few turf fields during his time at Southern Miss and said the quality of the artificial material and layout has improved since then.
"My freshman year, we played up at Louisville, and they had just finished a new stadium with a turf surface," said Sutton. "Tulane was another place. After Katrina came through, they got a new stadium, and they went with an artificial surface. So I'm played on it. But since I played, the quality of the turf and its installment has progressively gotten better.
“A lot of places are going to it, so we’re grateful to have it.”
Sutton spoke to the benefits of now having it at West Jones.
"There are so many benefits," said Sutton. “Last Monday, it came a good rain. It probably didn't rain enough to where we would've canceled [if the season was in play], but we would have had to scratch the dirt to air it out and other maintenance things. We walked out here at seven-period, and the field was playable without work.”
"Even with practice, I think back to all the time we've had to practice in our indoor facility," added Sutton, "Especially during the January and February months where it's cold and wet and rainy, the soil doesn't want to dry out. Now we can practice outside when we wouldn't have been able to before."
The project also included work being done in the low-lying outfield areas.
"A part of this project was also putting drainage in the outfield," said Sutton. "We've had water issues in the past in the right-center field area. A few weeks ago, when Hurricane Ida came through, and we got four-five inches of rain, we put a tractor on it a few days afterward. We would not have been able to do that before."
The newly turfed infield will not cut out on rainouts completely. It will, however, cut down on the number of rainouts and time needed for rain delays.
"Rainouts will probably happen at some point and somehow, but if there's no lightning in the area, our rainouts will fail dramatically," said Sutton. "And all of that helps getting more money at the gates and our concessions stand.”
While the project was solely intended for the West Jones baseball program, Sutton said it would help other outdoor athletic programs.
"We wanted it for our program, but it can benefit other athletic programs on campus,” said Sutton. “We've already talked to football and soccer about them being able to use it."