Ferguson: Jays and Rays only teams playing on artificial turf

Scott Ferguson
3/11/2013 12:16:41 PM
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Any baseball purist who loves the game wants to see it played on natural grass. The Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays are the only two teams in the Majors now playing on artificial turf.
Both teams play on AstroTurf. Thanks to a marketing agreement between the company and Major League Baseball, the Blue Jays were able to get an AstroTurf field installed virtually for free in 2010.
There was a great, albeit brief, buzz that Rogers Centre might get a natural grass surface by 2015. Paul Beeston suggested as much to the fans and the media at the State of the Franchise evening. The club's president and CEO later backed off that statement somewhat.
There simply isn't enough natural light getting into Rogers Centre to maintain a grass surface. Even if there was, having grass would reduce the multi-purpose versatility that makes Rogers Centre a viable entity.
The Argos, for instance, would have been pushed out if Rogers Centre had become a baseball-only natural grass facility. However, last week on TSN Drive with Dave Naylor, Argos president Chris Rudge revealed the Double-Blue will be staying at Rogers Centre and in fact, he was in the process of negotiating a new long-term lease agreement. So, if the Boatmen aren't going anywhere, neither is the turf.
There are a couple of stadia in the world where grass surfaces can be rolled in for sporting events and then moved back outside to get the nourishment of the sun and the rain.
As far as I could discern, though, there is only one indoor stadium with a "fixed roof" that has natural grass growing inside of it.
That would be the Forsyth Barr Stadium, in Dunedin, New Zealand. It opened on August 5 of 2011. It has a relatively light weight roof composed of ETFE, a transparent polymer (plastic). ETFA allows sunlight to pass through it and allows the grass inside to keep growing naturally.
You might think the grass surface would inhibit the stadium from being used for other events but that's not the case. They used a special blend of three types of rye grass and then drove 20 million nylon strands into the ground to the depth of 18cm.
Two centimetres of the nylon strands remained above the ground. The grass then grew up and twined itself around the nylon making it stronger and more tear resistant. That means the facility can host soccer and rugby, as well and concerts and trade shows.
This can't be applied to Toronto, though, unless it was an entirely new facility. You can't just suddenly put a plastic roof on Rogers Centre. Even though this stadium in New Zealand appears to be growing concern, there have still been cries to put in artificial turf anyway due to the cost of maintaining the grass.
It's pretty clear there won't be natural grass at Rogers Centre anytime soon. We'll probably have to wait for another generation to go by before Toronto gets a new ballpark; one the purists can embrace.
Too bad Canada bowed out in the first round again at the World Baseball Classic. But after that humiliating 14-4 defeat at the hands of Italy, Ernie Whitt's crew did our country proud against Mexico and the US on Saturday and Sunday. If Brandon Phillips hadn't made that tremendous diving play to rob Adam Loewen of a base-hit Sunday, we might be talking about the greatest victory in Canadian International baseball history.
I don't know if you caught it on TV, but when Justin Morneau of the Twins came up late in the US game, one of his teammates yelled to him something to the effect of "show the Blue Jays what you can still do" or something to that effect.
It was probably just a bit of baseball humour but it made me wonder if there is a mutual interest. Morneau had a solid tournament, is a strong left hand bat and is revered in this country. He's also in the final year of his contract. Just might be something to keep an eye on as the season unfolds.

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