Commodities: DuraEdge Red Clay and BlackStick Gumbo Mound Clay Customer: DuraEdge Products, Inc.
Location: Industry, Pennsylvania, Terminal

You never know where an opportunity to create a new relationship and bring a new Customer to Watco will come from. For Commercial Manager Mike Wastchak, one of those opportunities came from a newspaper article.

“It was August of 2017, and I remember reading about DuraEdge in the local paper. They’re in Slippery Rock, Penn., where my daughter was going to school at the time. So, when I was visiting her, I read it in the local paper that these guys had branched out from the sand and aggregate business to where they found this playing field niche. I asked them for a tour of their processing facility. They provided it, then we got them down to our facility, and we agreed to start shipping,” Wastchak said.

The red clay infield mixture is unloaded from a barge.

DuraEdge Products, Inc. creates a variety of products for baseball and softball field playing surfaces, ranging from solutions for community fields all the way up to Major League Baseball stadiums. One of the company’s main products is a red clay mix that is used on infields. When the clay is mixed with sand and spread over an infield, it has much better water absorbent properties than traditional surfacing, leading to fewer rain delays and cancellations.

The red clay is loaded into the hopper, so it can be loaded into trucks.

“The red clay is a very, very soft, beautiful material. My understanding from talking with the Customer is that it does a tremendous job of preventing rainouts of ballgames, whether it’s high school, college, semi-pro, or professional level,” Wastchak said. “The other product, we just handled it for the first time, it came up from Missouri. They call it a black clay. That’s a different type of clay with different characteristics, and it’s used for pitchers’ mounds. We offload it into the warehouse here and then truck it up to their facility to be processed.”

The first Watco terminal to see DuraEdge product was actually the Cincinnati, Ohio, terminal where the team there unloaded a barge of the red clay in 2017. DuraEdge’s processing facility is about an hour north of the Industry terminal, but they were originally using a Watco competitor locally.

The red clay mixture is loaded into trucks for distribution.

“We’d been trying to get them to give the Industry terminal a chance. DuraEdge began experiencing some issues with the other terminal in the area. There were slow turnaround times and not enough storage space. So, our team was finally given the chance because the other place dropped the ball,” Wastchak said.

The first barge of black clay recently arrived and was unloaded. When it arrives, the black clay is in solid chunks, some as large as basketballs. The Industry Team moves it to the warehouse, where it’s kept separate from other materials to avoid contaminants and keep it safe from weather. It’s then trucked to the processing plant to be crushed, screened, and blended.

A lump of recently unloaded black clay is nearly the same size as a hard hat.

“When the barge originally arrived, we had a backlog at the terminal, so we told them it would be about four days before the black clay would be unloaded,” Wastchak said. “The Customer expressed concerns with that time line, so the terminal manager, John Mihalic, and the team made some adjustments, and we got them unloaded the next day, which DuraEdge was very, very appreciative of. The guys did great job of responding and John’s team deserves a pat on the back because they came up with a solution for the Customer.”

This first barge contained about 1,600 tons of black clay. After it was unloaded, the team cleaned it out and immediately began filling it with the finished red clay product for outbound shipment.

“They wanted to get as much of it outbound as possible, so we loaded a little more than 1,600 tons outbound,” Wastchak said. “They’re in the Grapefruit League in Florida, which starts in February, and they landed contracts with the Cactus League in Arizona, so they’re trying to get product out to them. Most of it goes by rail currently, but we’re happy to be working with DuraEdge and to help move this unique product.”