Platinum TE™ Paspalum is the Turfgrass of Choice at the 2021 World Series
Besides being the best teams in baseball this year, what do the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros have in common?
Their turfgrass. Both teams play on Platinum TE™ Paspalum.
As baseball fans tune in to the 2021 World Series, whether at Minute Maid Park in Houston (scheduled to host games one, two, six, and seven) or Truist Park in Atlanta (scheduled to host games three, four, and five), the vibrant green turf is the same.
Platinum TE in the Sports Spotlight
Platinum TE is a patented turfgrass variety of the seashore paspalum species. Developed by leading turf industry expert Dr. Ron R. Duncan, Platinum TE entered the market in 2007. Since then, hundreds of sports fields and golf courses across five continents have chosen Platinum TE. In addition to the World Series, Platinum TE has also been the turfgrass of choice for major golf events such as the PGA Championship; and one year from now, Platinum TE will be in the spotlight again as the one and only turf surface of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
The Platinum TE Scorecard
What makes Platinum TE worthy of the most high-profile sporting competitions in the world? The list is long, and strength undoubtedly is among the list toppers. The Platinum TE surface is compact and strong, with a tight canopy density achieved through a fine leaf blade texture and short internode spacing. Add to this its extensive root volume. According to Duncan, Platinum TE has a root volume two to three times greater than other sport turf species.
Platinum TE also scores high in wear tolerance and recovers quickly from turf surface injury.
“With proper management, recovery time for Platinum TE is exceptional,” said Duncan. “The key is proper nutritional and hormone balance. With the right care, damage recovery times can be shortened by weeks.”
The sustainability features of Platinum TE are also worth mentioning. Unbeatable salt tolerance allows for effluent irrigation, and very good drought and heat tolerance allow Platinum TE to thrive in the harshest conditions. Reductions in water usage and inputs, specifically nitrogen, are significant with this variety.
Platinum TE at Minute Maid Park
The first Major League Baseball team to select Platinum TE was the Houston Astros in 2009. The shade challenges presented by Minute Maid Park’s retractable roof required a turf with exceptional low light tolerance. Platinum TE met the challenge. According to Duncan, Platinum TE is able to maintain its canopy density and uniform surface with five hours of sunlight per day supported by grow lights to extend the growth activity in the shade-prone areas. Other turf species require at least eight hours.
Platinum TE at Truist Park
The Atlanta Braves began experimenting with Platinum TE while playing at their former venue, Turner Field. The players responded well to its performance. As a result, upon construction of the new stadium in northwest Atlanta in 2017, the playing surface was converted entirely to Platinum TE.
While Truist Park does not have a roof, shade is still a factor. Depending on the time of year and the sun’s position, large areas of the field can receive extended periods of shade.
Strategic Advantages of Platinum TE
In addition to shade tolerance, another differentiating characteristic of Platinum TE makes it a desirable choice for baseball. The turf is highly adaptable to a wide range of mowing heights. In golf course applications, this feature allows Platinum TE to be used on golf course tees and greens at very low heights of cut as well as fairways and roughs at increasing heights of cut. The baseball field managers at Minute Maid Park (Izzy Hinojosa) and Truist Park (Ed Mangan) have perfected the nuances of turf height to give their players maximum advantages.
Varying the height of cut affects the reaction and speed time of the ball. Lower cuts speed up the roll of the ball, and higher cuts slow it down. Depending on the preferences of the players, Platinum TE allows for adjustments.
Besides offering maximum playability for baseball, Platinum TE earns its place on the field through its appearance. Whether in-person or viewing on television, spectators often mistake the turfgrass for artificial due to its unbelievable vibrancy. The almost fluorescent green color makes the field a thing of beauty.
Platinum TE provides another aesthetic benefit valued by field managers – its striping capabilities. Field designs ranging from simple striping patterns to elaborate artistic displays are popular, but the difficulty of achieving these patterns varies depending on the grass. Platinum TE hits a homerun when it comes to striping thanks to three special features: its dark green color, its unique vertical leaf orientation, and the leaf blade wax load.
The striping technique involves mowing the grass in different directions for different leaf blade positions. With other turf species and even other paspalum varieties, the process can take multiple passes of the mower to achieve the desired effects. Platinum TE is able to hold its stripes with fewer passes of the mower – sometimes in only one pass. The time and manpower savings are significant.
The color, similar to the cool season Kentucky bluegrasses, achieves remarkable striping results. The vertical leaf orientation puts the blades in a better starting point to be uniformly re-positioned during the mower pass. And the wax layer acts as a mirror, providing a stunning reflection of the color.
The Experts Behind the Grass
Field managers are unsung heroes whose range of talents is often not recognized. Acting in parts as scientists, agronomists, and artists, these professionals work behind the scenes to keep the playing surface in optimal condition despite uncontrollable variables such as weather, playing schedules, and non-sporting events.
Even further from the spotlight but crucial to the equation are the turf suppliers. As a patented product, Platinum TE’s production is controlled and certified for quality purposes with a limited number of farms. Currently, only seven farms worldwide hold licenses to produce Platinum TE.
Pike Creek Turf, based in Adel, Georgia, is the original turf source of the Platinum TE going to both the Atlanta Braves and the Houston Astros stadiums. Since 1989, Pike Creek Turf has been one of the leading turfgrass producers and installers in the southeastern United States. With numerous acres of licensed and certified Platinum TE in production, Pike Creek Turf is the go-to turfgrass supplier for sports fields at every level, golf courses, and landscapers both residential and commercial.
“Platinum TE has been an excellent variety for us since day one,” says Jimmy Allen, owner of Pike Creek Turf. “It performs well on the farm and, due to an extensive root system, holds great for sod. Our Platinum fields are always the most attractive of all, where we always make sure to take visitors on farm tours. From the World Cup to the World Series, on golf courses and athletic fields around the world, Platinum TE is hard to beat.”
Between the initial production of the grass at Pike Creek Turf and its arrival at the stadium fields is another step in the process. While turf farms usually harvest sod at thicknesses of about a half to one inch, the demands of stadium fields require added mass. The timeframe between laying the sod on the field and play commencing does not allow standard sod to amass the root structure necessary for the strength and stability rugged sports demand.
This is where Bent Oak Farm and Pro Turf come in. Together, these sister farms are the only licensee whose specialty is growing turfgrass on plastic and transforming traditional sod into the thickness and rigidity capable of standing up to major league play. Their proprietary process is not quick, but the result is sod measuring nearly two inches with a uniquely strong base anchoring the root system.
Enormous rolls of the sod on plastic are delivered to the fields for the “lay and play” application. With the increased turf and root structure volume, the sod is immediately ready for action.
“The advantage of sod on plastic,” says Paluch, owner of Bent Oak Farm and Pro Turf, “is that you can lay the sod on Saturday night and play on Sunday at noon.”
Paluch and his team have extensive experience working with professional sports franchises. In addition to this year’s and previous World Series games, Bent Oak Farm and Pro Turf have provided their lay and play sod to Super Bowl venues on numerous occasions. This history has allowed Paluch to work with many different turfgrasses.
“I’m a paspalum fan,” says Paluch. “It’s really good for what we’re using it for. It’s a good-looking, healthy turfgrass. And I’ve been around a lot of grass.”