EP Minerals knocks dust from baseball infields

EP Minerals of South Reno hopes it’s hit a home run with its newest product line.

The south Reno firm that specializes in production of minerals-based products used as filter aides, absorbents and landscaping conditioners, last week introduced its Game Changer soil conditioner designed to reduce dusty conditions during play on baseball infields.

The Game Changer soil conditioner is made from a montmorillonite clay base that’s processed through a kiln at more than 1,000 degrees — “calcined” is the technical name for the process — to make it porous and bring its iron content to the surface. The Game Changer line has four products: a standard soil conditioner, one with added surfactant, a drying agent and pitcher’s mound clay.

Early testing of the product has been well received, says Jeff Kitchens, vice president of performance aggregates for EP Minerals. So far, Game Changer has been used on ball fields at the University of Kentucky, University of Memphis and Houston High School in the Memphis area. It’s also been tested on professional fields for the Toledo Muds Hens and Nashville Sounds, and at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, Ariz., the Chicago Cubs’ spring training facility.

Kitchens says EP Minerals identified the new product line after lengthy discussions with superintendents and groundskeepers charged with grooming baseball infields.

“The biggest complaint groundskeepers have with infield dirt is that after the third or fourth inning the infield becomes very dusty,” Kitchens says. “Usually the first two or three innings are good, then the soil dries out.”

EP Mineral’s chemists and engineers worked for months to perfect a soil conditioner that uses the calcined clay to help soil retain its moisture. The Game Changer infield conditioner has a mix of early, intermediate and slow-release surfactant that helps soil retain moisture and reduces the need for rewetting and screen dragging.

The upside, Kitchens says, is that some superintendents of facilities have reported the conditioner has helped their budgets for field maintenance because they eliminated some watering and the field was easier to prepare for future games.

“After months of testing we found it did exactly what we wanted it to do,” Kitchens says.

EP Minerals will present the product at the Sports Turf Management Association show in San Antonio beginning Tuesday. Kitchens hopes to form several strategic alliances at the show and gain additional placement. Currently, Game Changer is sold to wholesalers who in turn sell to colleges, high schools and professional sports teams. Cost for the product is largely determined by geographical location due to freight charges.

Kitchens says the field of turf management is changing as groundskeepers become more knowledgeable of new technology and trends.

“The biggest obstacle is to make them fully understand the benefits of this technology,” he says. “When comes to turf, landscaping and baseball fields, there have been applications in those industries that have been successful for years. This is a new technology, and once word gets out that will be our biggest advantage.”


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