State College (PA) Spikes sports turf manager Matt Neri was named the New York-Penn League's Groundskeeper of the Year.

Neri named NY-Penn League Groundskeeper of the Year

State College Spikes general manager Jason Dambach, and sports turf manager Matt Neri have each been named winners of season-ending awards handed out by the New York-Penn League. Dambach has been named the winner of the 2010 Robert F. Julian Community & Baseball Service Award, while Neri has been named the league’s Groundskeeper of the Year.

Dambach and Neri were selected for their respective awards based on voting from their peers in the New York-Penn League. The awards were announced last Thursday by NYPL president, Ben Hayes.

Dambach, who recently completed his second full season as Spikes’ general manager, won the Robert F. Julian Community & Baseball Service Award for his outstanding service contributions to the community and to baseball. Since taking over his role as GM in Jan. 2009, Dambach has become very active in the New York-Penn League, serving as the executive director of the NYPL Charitable Foundation and sitting on the league’s schedule committee. Additionally, he is a member of the BIRCO Content Committee, which is charged with representing the online content interests of all Minor League Baseball clubs who are members of the Major League Baseball Advanced Media (BAM) network. Locally, he has presided over the Spikes’ community service initiatives, and was recently elected to the Board of Directors of the Central Pa. Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“I’m honored to be selected as the 2010 winner of the Robert F. Julian Community & Baseball Service Award from the New York-Penn League, and even more honored to know that this award was voted upon by my colleagues around the league,” said Dambach.

Neri’s selection as the NYPL Groundskeeper of the Year marks the second time in five seasons that he has earned that honor. He also took home the award following the Spikes’ inaugural 2006 season. The criteria for the award included overall playing surface, infield and outfield turf areas, condition of the pitcher’s mound, condition of the bullpens, and professionalism of the grounds crew.

“It’s quite an honor to be recognized,” said Neri, “and it’s a testament to our crew, including Penn State University turf grass program alumni Chuck Roman and Adam Bechtel who assisted me this year. 2010 was probably the most challenging year we’ve had weather-wise, thanks to the dry and somewhat unpredictable summer in the Northeast. However, with the resources we have thanks to our ownership and management team we were able to meet and exceed the expectations of the Pittsburgh Pirates and the other Major League organizations who are represented in the New York-Penn League.”

A native of Williamsburg, Pa., Neri is the only sports turf manager Medlar Field at Lubrano Park has ever known, having overseen the field operations throughout the Spikes’ entire five-year history. Neri began his sports turf career in 2002 with the Altoona Curve of the Double-A Eastern League. In addition to his Spikes duties, Neri also oversees turf operations for all Penn State University varsity and club baseball games.