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New Toronto turf raising MLB concerns

Toronto Blue JaysThe new AstroTurf 3D Xtreme synthetic turf installed at Rogers Centre for the Toronto Blue Jays is raising concerns about its playability in Major League Baseball offices, but drastic changes to it are unlikely.

The issue: the new Rogers Centre turf — like almost every other synthetic turf used in athletics these days — combines synthetic grass blades with an infill of rubber pellets. That’s why there’s a sea of flying pellets once an outfielder slides to make a catch; they even appear when someone is running on the turf.

Now, the new AstroTurf 3D Xtreme isn’t performing like past synthetic turfs; a ball in play is noticeably slowed down by the turf, and the ball can take some funny bounces. That is causing some concern in MLB offices, reports Jon Morosi:

From John Lott at the National Post:

Give it time and more games, and the field will play faster, AstoTurf vice-president Kenny Gilman said in an interview. And the complicated process of removing the artificial grass between Blue Jays homestands might also help to make the field play faster, he said.

The removal machinery applies “extreme pressure” to the turf when it is rolled up, helping to stabilize the rubber pellets that form the infill and flatten the synthetic blades of grass, Gilman said. Over time, playing on it will do the same thing.

“I think both AstroTurf and the Blue Jays feel it’s a little slower than we thought it would play,” he said. “But it’s brand new and it will definitely speed up.”

One thing to remember: this is a temporary turf. The Blue Jays plan on converting the surface to grass once the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts move out at the end of the 2017 season, so this turf is planned only for three MLB seasons. Still, if MLB deems this to be an issue, there’s the option to taking a roller to the surface to more tightly compact the turf.

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