We've all become accustomed to the big, bright windscreen banners that are a common sight on baseball and softball field fences. Being one of the most recognizable aspects of a baseball game, they are truly a sport's trademark. Although coming in various sizes and colors, baseball windscreens fulfill a number of important roles that go beyond just the visual.
In this article, we will take a look at why baseball windscreens are a must-have and share knowledge on what they consist of and how to install and maintain ShelterLogic Shade Cloth as your windscreen in your very own facility.
Why Windscreens Are Important
Like most outdoor sports, baseball and softball suffer from unwanted interventions by the natural elements. Wind, in this case, is the main concern. The singular most important purpose of a windscreen is to provide the field with a shelter or sort of regulator against the harsh wind that can have a negative effect on the play.
However, adding this solid/semi-solid background to your baseball field fencing will also help reduce visual distractions from pedestrians and other regular-life activities outside the facility. They eliminate unwanted onlookers while simultaneously increasing better visibility for the player on the field.
While all sports can benefit from the use of windscreens, baseball and softball have a unique advantage—improved ball visibility. In baseball, there is a term known as the "batter's eye." The batter's eye is a solid-colored area in the center of the outfield fence and beyond that is the direct line of sight of a batter while waiting for a pitch.
This clean visual backdrop allows the batter to better see the ball due to its contrast against a dark and solid-colored background. This not only helps the batter perform better at the plate, but it helps keep them safe by ensuring they maintain clear sight of the ball as it's thrown towards them at high speed.
Perhaps the most obvious benefit of a windscreen is its visual impact. Throughout the sport, baseball/softball windscreens have been designed to add to the overall image of a facility. They work well to enhance the look of an otherwise plain and dull chain link fence. Windscreens can be a tremendous chance to show off a school's logo, colors and display important text such as a slogan, mascot image, or team name.
This branding method creates a professional look to a facility and breathes life into its fences. Some teams also choose to include sponsor advertising on their windscreen. This is a great way to generate additional revenue for the team or pay off the cost of the windscreen.
What Windscreens Are Made Of
There is not a particular windscreen material that is a perfect fit for every field or environment. Each material possesses its own strengths and weaknesses, and it's up to you to decide which factors are most important.
For example, if your facility is located in a windy environment, a material with solid abrasion resistance should be your top priority. This will be useful if a portion of a panel breaks free from the fence and begins to flap around in the wind. Windscreens with solid abrasion resistance are typically woven or knit polypropylene (or polyethylene).
Additionally, if adding color and printed logos on your windscreen is high on your priorities, then perhaps a vinyl-coated material is a better choice for you. Be sure that you fully understand the material of choice and its pros/cons to compare specifications and material attributes. We recommend seeking guidance from experts in this area that are familiar with all types of windscreen materials and can provide the best option for your needs.
Note that it is important that your windscreen is a mesh rather than solid banner material. Mesh is a woven material with several tiny holes that allow a moderate amount of wind to pass through. This is unlike banner material that is solid and can act like a sail when being pushed by heavy winds, causing strain to your fence and ultimately causing damage to the entire fencing structure.
How To Install A Windscreen
When looking to install a Windscreen to your facility, the first thing that you should consider is the type of fence that surrounds your field. Some fences may not be fully equipped to withstand the additional wind load as a result of the windscreen. Many fences lack the adequate pole sizing, spacing, or depth necessary to handle the load. If ignored, this can result in catastrophic failure of your fence.
We recommend consulting a fencing professional (ideally the original installer) to determine if the existing fence is properly supported and equipped to handle the windscreen. You may need to replace or reinforce your fence before the installation process.
Start by laying out the entire section of Shade Cloth along the fence or wall you plan to hang it on. This will ensure it is the proper length that you ordered. Use a few "S" hooks to hang the panel on the fence temporarily. Lifting the panel lessens the weight and makes it easier to attach and tighten the tie wrap at the grommet.
Attach at every grommet; make sure not to skip even one. Attaching all the grommets distributes the force evenly when there is a high wind load. Using fewer grommets results in more load on the attached grommets and a higher chance of ties breaking. If the windscreen cover breaks loose and whips against the fence, it can be damaged beyond repair.
Next, Attach tie wraps to the fence in the direction the panel is being pulled. As the tie is being tightened, it will pull the cover taut. Ensure the tie is secure, but don't over-tighten the tie wraps. Overly tightening the tie wraps might result in wrinkling of the cover and insufficient room to properly straighten out the panel. After the panel is completely attached, the ties can be tightened to minimize any remaining wrinkles.
Once that is completed, go back to the end, and from top-to-bottom, attach a vertical edge to the fence all the way to the bottom, pulling the taut as each tie is secured. Continue the attachment process along the bottom for about 10 inches, pulling the cover taut and freeing it from as many wrinkles as possible.
After the first 10 inches of the windscreen are attached at the top and bottom, go back to the top and attach along the next 10 inches while pulling them taut. Continue the top and bottom attachment until the panel is fully and securely in place. Continue the installation process with the remaining panels using the same method.
Do not attempt to install your windscreen on a windy day. This complicates the entire process and could lead to incorrect installation.
Maintaining The Windscreen
Beyond just buying the proper windscreen, you should get insight from those who will be in charge of caring for it. Draw out a plan for setup, takedown, and maintenance. Delegate roles to your field staff to determine who will put it up and take it down. Make decisions beforehand as to where your windscreen maintenance falls within your maintenance schedule, and whether or not it is necessary to take down and store your windscreens during certain parts of the year.
Additional tips for windscreen maintenance include replacing windscreen ties immediately if they have broken. The more grommets that are unsecured, the more the strain on the rest of the panel. This can easily result in torn grommets and wind whip.
Hose down your windscreen whenever you clean your court surface in order to prevent the accumulation of weather-related pollutants. It is advised to use a garden hose instead of pressure washers or high-velocity hoses, as these may cause damage to the windscreen. Lastly, before removing your windscreen for storage, hose it down and let it dry to completion before storing it.
The presence of a fence windscreen not only provides instant visual appeal, but also improved functionality on your baseball and softball fields. Having a proper understanding of materials, installation, and maintenance will provide long standing value and help you to avoid costly mistakes.