NEW YORK (AP) — The traditional rivalry between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox will take a radical twist when they meet in London next month: They will play on artificial turf for the first time in more than 2,200 games over a century.
Major League Baseball has access to Olympic Stadium for 21 days before the games on June 29 and 30, the sport's first regular-season contests in Europe, and just five days after to clear out. The league concluded there was not enough time to install real grass.
Starting June 6, gravel will be placed over the covering protecting West Ham's grass soccer pitch and the running track that is a legacy from the 2012 Olympics. The artificial turf baseball field, similar to modern surfaces used by a few big league clubs, will be installed atop that.
"It's the first Yankees-Red Sox game out of the country, so why not a lot of firsts?" New York pitcher CC Sabathia said. "I think it will be fine."
Instead, 141,913 square feet of FieldTurf Vertex will be transported by truck starting June 4 from the company's plant in Auchel, France, a little over 150 miles to a storage facility outside London, according to Murray Cook, the sport's field consultant.
Clay for the pitcher's mound and home plate area comes from DuraEdge in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. Turface Athletics near Chicago provides the soil conditioner, while mound tamps, infield drags and nail drags are from Beacon Athletics in Middleton, Wisconsin. The U.S. materials, including 345 tons of dirt in 18 40-foot containers, left Port Elizabeth, New Jersey, during the third week of April and arrived on May 18 at Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) from London. Fence padding was manufactured at Covermaster outside Toronto and shipped from Montreal.
"We looked really hard at doing a natural grass system," Cook said. "We're going with a synthetic system and it helps us a couple ways. It's a little more sustainable, because we're going back next year. If we went with a natural grass system, we'd have to bulldoze it all up, throw it away and then buy it again, build it all up, throw it away again."
Only three of the 30 major league teams play on artificial surfaces — Toronto, Tampa Bay and Arizona. Rogers Centre in Toronto and Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, have never had grass. Arizona switched this season from grass to turf, as will Texas when its new ballpark opens next spring.
Olympic Stadium, like the regular ballparks, will have full dirt infields rather than the square dirt patches popular during artificial turf's height — there was a high of 10 synthetic fields in the major leagues from 1977-78 and again from 1982-94.
"I'm assuming it's like Toronto's or Tampa's, so it shouldn't be an issue," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.
Toronto has played on AstroTurf 3D Xtreme since 2016 and Tampa Bay on Shaw Sports Turf since 2017. Arizona switched from grass to Shaw Sports B1K this year, and Texas will use Shaw Sports Turf when it moves into new Globe Life Field next year.
"If we had never played on turf, it would be different, but we've played on turf," Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts said.