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Marlins Park getting up to speed with new grass

Marlins Park getting up to speed with new grass

Marlins Park getting up to speed with new grass
This is part of an MLB.com/Marlins.com exclusive series with team president David Samson, chronicling the progress and developments of the new retractable-roof stadium. Throughout the series, fans are encouraged to e-mail David at D.Samson@Marlins.com with their thoughts.

MIAMI -- Jose Reyes' impact will be felt more than just in the Marlins' lineup.

The All-Star shortstop's presence is also being incorporated into the layout of Marlins Park, the franchise's new retractable-roof stadium.

In fact, the Marlins are tailoring their field to take advantage of their personnel, including Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Emilio Bonifacio and Hanley Ramirez. To capitalize on the speed of Reyes, Bonifacio and Ramirez, the Marlins plan to grow their grass a bit longer than what it was in the past at Sun Life Stadium.

In February, a grass called Celebration (a type of Bermudagrass) will be set in place in the ballpark.

"We're going to try to grow it to three-quarters of an inch to take advantage of the team that we have," Marlins president David Samson said. "We've signed a Gold Glove pitcher in Mark Buehrle. We've got Reyes and Bonifacio, speedsters at the top of the lineup. We're going to take advantage of that."

The taller grass will tend to slow ground balls down, increasing the chances of infield hits. Last year, the Marlins collected 138 infield hits, which was tied with the Red Sox for the 11th most in the Major Leagues.

Bonifacio's 45 infield hits a year ago were second only to Juan Pierre's 46. Reyes added 24 infield hits, tied for 18th most in the league.

And the slower conditions could work in favor of fielders who have great range, like Buehrle and Reyes.

The Marlins aim to make their new home a pitchers' park. Until games are actually played, and the conditions are determined, it is unclear if the building will favor pitchers or hitters.

The dimensions, however, are tilted for pitchers. Down the left-field line will be 344 feet, progressing to 386 fet in left-center field and 422 feet in straightaway center. The wall in right-center is 392 feet, and down the line in right field will be 335 feet.

At the Marlins' old home, Sun Life Stadium, the surface was among the fastest in the league. As a multisport facility, the grass was kept low, at less than half an inch.

"It was a football stadium, and it got so ripped apart, they were never able to keep the grass long at all," Samson said. "I'd say we had one of the fastest infields in baseball. That's certainly not our plan here."

To combat the heat, humidity and frequent rain in South Florida, about 80 percent of the Marlins' home games will be played with the roof closed. But to allow the grass to grow, the roof will remain open during the day.

Keeping the roof open for several hours a day will serve two purposes: It will provide sunlight for the grass to grow, as well as allow the roof to cover the West Plaza, an area that will feature shops. When the roof is open, it slides over the West Plaza.

"That's the whole point of the design," Samson said. "So the West Plaza has a roof on it during the course of the day, to provide shade and dryness to fans who come over the course of the day to go to the retail stores and all the other stuff going on there."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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