MLB stadiums by grass type
Artificial turf once looked destined for extinction in Major League Baseball, but the synthetic surface may be staging a comeback.
Unlike the NFL, which features a 50-50 split between natural grass and turf venues, just five MLB franchises play their home games on turf — and that number only recently increased, after the Arizona Diamondbacks, Texas Rangers, and Miami Marlins opted to make the switch to faux grass in 2020.
Before then, the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays were the only two franchises in the 30-team MLB that featured turf. The Rays, which are valued at $1.055 billion (the second lowest total of all MLB franchises), boast the cheaper alternative to natural grass at Tropicana Field's domed stadium, while the Blue Jays have remained committed to the surface at the retractable-roof Rogers Centre.
Players have long been known to complain about the use of synthetic grass, whether in football or baseball, but cost-wise, it's difficult to argue against its existence. Now that today's version of artificial turf is a far cry from the AstroTurf that infiltrated MLB in the 1970s and 80s, more franchises could consider supplanting natural grass with the "cheap" stuff.
Below we break down all 30 MLB stadiums by grass type and look at the advantages and disadvantages of natural grass vs. turf.
Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Boston Red Sox
Chicago White Sox
Guaranteed Rate Field
Great American Ball Park
Minute Maid Park
Kansas City Royals
Kansas City, Missouri
Los Angeles Angels
Los Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles, California
American Family Field
New York Mets
Queens, New York
New York Yankees
Bronx, New York
Citizens Bank Park
San Diego Padres
San Diego, California
San Francisco Giants
San Francisco, California
St. Louis Cardinals
St. Louis, Missouri
Tampa Bay Rays
St. Petersburg, Florida
Globe Life Field
Toronto Blue Jays
The case for natural grass
America's favorite pastime is littered with tradition, so anytime the league shies away from a long-running standard, it's bound to stir up controversy.
Many baseball fans argue natural grass is the only surface upon which the sport should be played, as the sight and smell of a vibrant, fresh-cut field is all part of the game-day experience.
#DidYouKnow: the MLB groundkeepers actually bend (not cut!) the grass to make those mesmerizing designs on the field? pic.twitter.com/TFRGfPkmYN— QB Sports Grill (@QBSportsGrill) November 9, 2014
Many baseball players also argue in favor of natural grass and often associate turf with an increased risk of injury.
As former Blue Jays outfielder/third baseman Jose Bautista once said in a 2014 interview, "It’s unfortunate, but it seems like us and the Rays we all have to deal with more injuries than normal, more banged up, maybe because of the turf. I mean it’s the only two stadiums left with turf. I don’t know if there’s a way to address it at the Rogers Centre, so we just have to deal with it."
Kentucky Bluegrass, Bermudagrass, or a mixture of Bluegrass and Perennial Ryegrass are the most common types of playing field surfaces found in baseball.
The San Diego Padres are enjoying a home field advantage this spring! ⚾ @PetcoPark features the resilient Latitude 36™ Bermudagrass. Watch as the @Rockies take on the @Padres at Petco Park tonight at 7:10 PM PST.#NaturalGrass #Latitude36 @EvergreenTurfAZ @TPITurfTalk pic.twitter.com/e1b7xJsBkS— Sod Solutions (@SodSolutions) April 15, 2019
Bluegrass is most often cultivated at ballparks in cooler climates, such as the New York Mets' Citi Field or the Chicago Cubs' Wrigley Field, while Bermudagrass is best for warm and transition climate zones, like San Diego.
A number of stadiums also implement a mixture of Ryegrass and Bluegrass, including Yankee Stadium, which exclusively features Kentucky Bluegrass to start the season, but makes repairs with Ryegrass as the year goes on.
The case for synthetic turf
All of that landscaping comes at a cost, however, which is why turf has found its place inside a growing number of MLB stadiums.
Bermudagrass, for one, can require mowing at least twice a week because of its high growth rate, plus monthly fertilization, while supplemental irrigation may be required during dry periods, when the grass goes dormant.
Such an endeavor is avoided with artificial turf, which doesn't need cutting or watering. The initial cost of replacing a natural grass field can be fairly expensive, but over time, the maintenance will save MLB owners a ton of money.
It also provides them much more versatility, as teams can host outside events, like concerts, to drive more revenue without fear of the field getting worn down from extra usage.
When it comes to the aesthetics of turf, not all natural grass venues look better than the alternative, either.
Diamondbacks chief executive officer Derrick Hall heard plenty of gripes from players about the natural playing surface at Chase Field before he decided to switch to turf.
A cool addition for the state-of-the-art AstroTurf are these coconut shells which make the surface cooler for players. The Arizona Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers are two teams to have this type of turf. pic.twitter.com/HyWA8n3Ehi— Nathan Loprete (@NathanLoprete) June 21, 2020
Chase Field's grass would dry and harden during the season, which caused the ball to bounce too high and roll too fast. Patches of dead sod also created an injury risk, and fans thought the field looked ugly after the summer in Phoenix.
Hall allegedly wanted to keep grass on the field, but when he found a synthetic option from Shaw Sports Turf that mimicked the real deal, he reconsidered.
Yet, since the introduction of turf to Chase Field, players have wondered about their health and safety. While Hall praised the new surface in a 2019 interview, saying, "It’s a lot softer, it’s a lot safer, it’s cut back on the injuries," outfielder/second baseman Ketel Marte disagreed.
Marte, who suffered a back injury during the 2019 season, admitted, "The artificial turf took a toll on me, and (I've) just been dealing with (it) for the past couple months."
#Dbacks President and CEO Derrick Hall said switching from grass to turf has saved 16 million gallons of water for the city of Phoenix. https://t.co/meDeH6yyU9— 98.7 Arizona Sports (@AZSports) December 26, 2021
He later walked back his criticism and suggested that, "next year, when I’m more used to playing center and I have all that experience under my belt, then my body will [be] more conditioned to play the outfield. Not as much about the turf."
Left fielder David Peralta doubled-down on his opinion about the field updates, saying, "Turf is turf; it's never going to be like real grass and everybody knows that... It can get you pretty good with your hamstring or back and everything."
Nonetheless, Hall has remained an advocate for his new playing surface and believes it will attract more supporters over time.
He hasn't been completely wrong, as the Marlins and Rangers joined his side in the turf war just a year later. But it may be a long time coming before we see a 50-50 split in artificial and natural grass at the MLB level, like we have in the NFL, despite just as many football players calling for a ban on the "cheap" stuff.