Spencer Golanka, Sports Editor – Coast Report Online

Wendell Pickens Field at Orange Coast College, host to the OCC baseball team, is under construction to implement a brand-new AstroTurf playing surface, 10 years after the field’s last renovation.

The makeover is set to be finished on Nov. 23, just in time for the baseball team to get acquainted with the new field before the start of their season in early January.

“I’ve felt that Coast has always had the best [baseball] stadium on the outside, but not necessarily the best playing surface. This is going to change that,” OCC athletic director Jason Kehler said.

Although it is traditional to have dirt cutouts around the bases and pitcher’s mound, the new baseball field will be completely covered in synthetic turf.

This has become an increasing trend in the baseball universe, with colleges like Ohio State, Vanderbilt and Virginia Tech recently installing all-turf fields.

“There will be turf covering the pitcher’s mound, home plate area, bases and bullpens,” executive director of the Orange Coast College foundation Doug Bennett said. “New fencing will also be added to replace the old fencing, which was thirty plus years old.”

According to Bennett, finding the right synthetic turf was no walk in the park for OCC head baseball coach John Altobelli.Altobelli traveled to Texas, visiting a number of schools to choose between the two most reputable turf companies, AstroTurf and FieldTurf.  AstroTurf was the victor in Altobelli’s assessment, deciding it would suit baseball’s unique movement and gameplay better in the long run.

The benefits of an AstroTurf field severely outweigh those of a traditional baseball field. Having synthetic turf conserves copious amounts of water and diminishes extensive hours of unnecessary labor from Coast players, coaches and maintenance staff.

AstroTurf is also instrumental in fighting off rain damage with its complex drainage system. “Even with the little bit of rain we get here in Southern California, there were drainage issues [with the old field],” Kehler said. “Third base and home plate would flood, and there would be many days where practices or games were postponed.”

The opening game on the newly-turfed field will be OCC’s very first alumni vs. alumni baseball game. First pitch will be at noon on Dec. 22 and it will be open to the public.