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Yanks, Red Sox to play on artificial turf London

According to a report from Yahoo Sports
yesterday, “The traditional rivalry between the New York Yankees and Boston Red
Sox will take a radical twist when they meet in London next month: They will
play on artificial turf for the first time in more than 2,200 games over a
century.”

Major League Baseball has access to Olympic
Stadium for 21 days before the games on June 29 and 30, the sport’s first
regular-season contests in Europe, and just five days after to clear out. The
league concluded there was not enough time to install real grass.

Starting June 6, gravel will be placed over the
covering protecting West Ham’s grass soccer pitch and the running track that is
a legacy from the 2012 Olympics. The artificial turf baseball field, similar to
modern surfaces used by a few big league clubs, will be installed atop that.

”It’s the first Yankees-Red Sox game out of the
country, so why not a lot of firsts?” New York pitcher CC Sabathia said. ”I
think it will be fine.”

Instead, 141,913 square feet of FieldTurf Vertex
will be transported by truck starting June 4 from the company’s plant in
Auchel, France, a little over 150 miles (240 kilometers) to a storage facility
outside London, according to Murray Cook, the sport’s field consultant.

Clay for the pitcher’s mound and home plate area
comes from DuraEdge in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. Turface Athletics near
Chicago provides the soil conditioner, while mound tamps, infield drags and
nail drags are from Beacon Athletics in Middleton, Wisconsin. The U.S.
materials, including 345 tons of dirt in 18 40-foot containers, left Port
Elizabeth, New Jersey, during the third week of April and arrived on May 18 at
Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) from London.
Fence padding was manufactured at Covermaster outside Toronto and shipped from
Montreal.

”We looked really hard at doing a natural grass
system,” Cook said. ”We’re going with a synthetic system and it helps us a
couple ways. It’s a little more sustainable, because we’re going back next
year. If we went with a natural grass system, we’d have to bulldoze it all up,
throw it away and then buy it again, build it all up, throw it away again.”

Only three of the 30 major league teams play on
artificial surfaces – Toronto, Tampa Bay and Arizona. Rogers Centre in Toronto
and Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, have never had grass. Arizona
switched this season from grass to turf, as will Texas when its new ballpark
opens next spring.

Olympic Stadium, like the regular ballparks, will
have full dirt infields rather than the square dirt patches popular during
artificial turf’s height – there was a high of 10 synthetic fields in the major
leagues from 1977-78 and again from 1982-94.

”I’m assuming it’s like Toronto’s or Tampa’s, so
it shouldn’t be an issue,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.

Toronto has played on AstroTurf 3D Xtreme since
2016 and Tampa Bay on Shaw Sports Turf since 2017. Arizona switched from grass
to Shaw Sports B1K this year, and Texas will use Shaw Sports Turf when it moves
into new Globe Life Field next year.

”If we had never played on turf, it would be
different, but we’ve played on turf,” Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts said.

New York and Boston have played 2,196 times, with
four more games at Yankee Stadium for May 30 to June 2. New York holds a
1,191-991 edge with 14 ties, plus a 12-11 advantage in postseason matchups.

Boston is the home team for both games in London,
but the Yankees and Red Sox will both wear their white home uniforms. When the
Yankees last played overseas in an opening-two game series at the Tokyo Dome in
2004, New York wore home pinstripes and the Devil Rays road grays, even though
Tampa Bay was the home team and batted last.

Foul poles, a batter’s eye, a backstop and
fencing will be erected, along with two dugouts – Red Sox on the first base
side and the Yankees on third. Temporary clubhouses will be built on the warmup
track under the stands – the soccer locker rooms are too small – along with
batting cages. Because holes cannot be made in the running track, weights will
secure the fences, similar to what was installed when the Los Angeles Dodgers
and Diamondbacks played in 2014 at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Australia.

Cook helped convert The Oval, a London cricket
ground opened in 1845, for games between Boston and New York Mets minor
leaguers in October 1993 – the first of two was rained out.