The Major League Baseball game between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox at London Stadium will be played on synthetic turf for the first time in more than 2,200 games over a century. The two legendary clubs will meet each other on 29 and 30 June.
Starting June 6, gravel will be placed over the covering protecting the football pitch and the running track that is a legacy from the 2012 London Olympics. Major League Baseball has opted for this solution as it believed they wouldn’t have enough time to install a natural grass surface. The stadium will be handed over to the MLB on 6 June and they will be expected to hand it back by 5 July latest.
The contract for the field has been awarded to FieldTurf after the company offered to provide its Vertex synthetic turf field. Clay for the pitcher’s mound and home plate area will be supplied by 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.
Materials that will be shipped in from the US, including 345 tons of dirt, left Port Elizabeth, New Jersey, late April and arrived in Suffolk mid-May. “We looked really hard at doing a natural grass system,” Murray Cook said to the New York Post. Cook has been contracted by the MLB to prepare the venue, something he did in 1993 already when he converted the The Oval in London for games between Boston and New York Mets minor leaguers.
“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. This way we’ve got a synthetic turf system that’s got two games on this year, two games on it next year and then the commissioner can do what he wants to do with the system, whether he wants to have another event somewhere, sell it or donate it or whatever they want to do.”
Synthetic turf is nothing new for teams in the MLB. Toronto (AstroTurf 3D Xtreme), Tampa Bay (Shaw Sports Turf ) and Arizona (Shaw Sports B1K) all have a synthetic turf surface. Rogers Centre in Toronto and Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, have never had grass at all. Arizona (Shaw Sports Turf) switched from grass to turf at the start of this season and Texas will follow suit when its new ballpark opens next spring. “If we had never played on turf, it would be different, but we’ve played on turf,” Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts said when he spoke to the NY Post.
By the time the teams will line up in London, they will have faced each other exactly 2,200 times. Nevertheless, it will be the first time that the teams will play on synthetic turf in a venue that will be called the Red Sox ‘home venue’.