FieldTurf installation nearly complete

By Jason Grodsky

Even though the Illinois baseball team is starting its season this weekend, the Illini won’t play at home on its new surface at Illinois Field until April 2.

In the off-season, the program began installing FieldTurf on the entire field – with the exception of the pitching mound – giving the team a unique home-field advantage that others in the Big Ten don’t have.

“Everyone is excited to get out there and play on it,” junior infielder Joe Bonadonna said.

“It’s pretty much the same field that we practice on at the indoor facility so we’re pretty used to it.”

Illinois head coach Dan Hartleb said that the installation of the field is nearly complete and the construction crew working on the field would need only a few more days laying sand in with the turf, but it has to be dry outside for them to do so.

“We’ve just got to have dry days so that when they lay the sand it doesn’t stick to the top of the blades instead of moving down into it,” Hartleb said.

The sand that is being put in with the turf is to help with the absorption of water when it rains.

“It’s going to give us a lot of opportunities to play games when other people aren’t playing,” Hartleb said in a press release.

“It’s going to be a great opportunity, once it’s finished, for us to get out earlier in the year,” he added.

The other big advantage that the Illini will enjoy is that the field will require less maintenance to keep fresh and clean, something the team is excited about.

They won’t have to do as much work after games making sure they lay out a large tarp that would normally blanket the dirt.

Bad hops might also become a thing of the past as a result of the new turf.

“As far as ground balls are concerned, everything will stay a lot truer and plays quicker,” Bonadonna said.

Hartleb added that the fields will be very consistent – something teams usually don’t get on a daily basis because of the weather.

“There aren’t a lot of schools that have it, but I think it’s the playing surface of the future in the North,” he said.

Final conference series to be broadcast on Big Ten Network

The Big Ten Network will broadcast Illinois’ final three games of the regular season.

The Illini will take on Purdue on May 16 for a doubleheader and May 17 at 1 p.m. at Illinois Field.

The games will be the only time the Illini will play on the Big Ten Network during the regular season.

“The Big Ten Network is thrilled to bring an unprecedented amount of Big Ten baseball and softball to a national audience,” network president Mark Silverman said in a press release.

“Fans should really enjoy that all these games will be in stunning HD.”