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Track Causes Some Surface Tension

October 21, 2002|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

The demand for new ballparks to double as cash machines nearly resulted in a serious injury to San Francisco first baseman J.T. Snow on Saturday at Edison Field.

As Snow chased a foul pop-up, he slipped and fell along the rubberized warning track in front of the dugout suites behind home plate. He grabbed the netting that protects fans from foul balls, scrambled to his feet and made the catch.

The warning track is crushed brick along the outfield wall and beyond the baselines but rubberized in front of the dugouts and the suites behind home plate. The rubberized surface prevents fans in the 10 dugout suites -- priced at $183,000 a year -- from dirt that might be sprayed inside should a player kick up dust while chasing a foul ball.

If the Angels replaced the rubberized surface with crushed brick, the dirt would clog the drains serving the dugout suites, according to Kevin Uhlich, the Angels' senior vice president for business operations.

The Angels plan to install a new track this winter to replace the current one, installed in 1998. The track shows numerous signs of wear, including lumps, holes and cracks, some patched with duct tape.

Snow was sharply critical of the surface Saturday, and representatives from the commissioner's office and the players' union said Sunday they would discuss the matter.

Snow is the latest of several players to lose his footing on that surface. The Angels' Darin Erstad, playing first base during a game in May, slipped and fell on a surface he calls "like ice" to players wearing plastic cleats. Players can minimize the risk of slipping by wearing metal cleats; Snow wore plastic cleats Saturday.

"Plastic on plastic equals on your butt," San Francisco Manager Dusty Baker said.

Angel third baseman Troy Glaus, who prefers to wear plastic cleats, said he exercises extra caution when chasing foul balls.

Angel Manager Mike Scioscia said he dislikes synthetic surfaces anywhere on the field.

Uhlich said he would be willing to meet with Scioscia and any interested players to discuss whether the surface is truly hazardous.

"We want to make this the best field we can," Uhlich said. "But it's the same surface we've had for four years without anybody complaining or saying we have to pull it out."

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