Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times, September 11, 2013


Like many great romances, Major League Baseball's love affair with AstroTurf was born in experimentation, applied in desperation and appreciated best in moderation.

Now comes its expiration.

After five decades in which artificial grass was often as ubiquitous — and in some places as loathed — as the designated hitter, professional baseball is going natural. Where once a dozen stadiums featured faux fields, this season there are only two: Toronto's Rogers Centre, where the Angels will finish a three-game series Thursday, and Florida's Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays.

And with the Jays discussing plans to pull up their rug soon, and the Rays looking to get out of their domed ballpark, plastic pastures could soon be a thing of the past.

"Good riddance," says Hall of Fame slugger Andre Dawson. "Personally, I just wish it would have been gone a long time ago."

Dawson had both knees battered and lost a lot of skin off both arms — plus a couple of productive years off the end of his career — because of the abrasive and unforgiving AstroTurf field at Montreal's Olympic Stadium, where he played his first 11 big league seasons.

Today, much-improved modern-day cousins of Chemgrass are used at many college and high school facilities. [Matthew Boggs, AstroTurf's director of research] concedes that professional baseball fields will probably stay natural.

"I would be shocked if, at the big league level, you could ever get guys to say they like a synthetic-turf field," he says. "If we went out and showed scientifically that everything was exactly the same, I still don't think we'd get approval."