MiLB, STMA name top Sports Turf Managers

Minor League Baseball announced Monday the four classification winners of the 15th annual Sports Turf Manager of the Year Awards, sponsored by the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA). The STMA provides educational opportunities and support so that sports turf managers can provide the best sports surfaces for all levels of play. This year’s recipients, three of which are multi-year honorees, are as follows: Triple-A – John Stewart (Syracuse Chiefs), Double-A – Brock Phipps (Springfield Cardinals), Single-A – Keith Winter (Fort Wayne TinCaps) and Short Season-A or Rookie – David Yearout (Spokane Indians). Winners are selected by a 16-member awards committee, compiled by STMA.

Each nominee is independently scored on cultural practices, gameday routine, resource utilization, staff management and the groundskeeper’s involvement in and support of the sports turf industry. The recipients will receive their awards at the Baseball Winter Meetings Awards Luncheon on Monday, Dec. 7, at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

The Triple-A recipient is the Syracuse Chiefs’ head groundskeeper John Stewart. As the winner of the International League’s Sports Turf Manager of the Year in 2015, he became the first Chiefs groundskeeper to win the award in its 24-year existence. Stewart joined the Chiefs in 2008 and took over as head groundskeeper in 2010.

The Springfield Cardinals’ Brock Phipps is the Double-A winner for the fourth time in his career and third consecutive year (also 2008). Phipps is also the Texas League honoree for the seventh time (2007-08, 2011-14). He and his staff received the award for Double-A Field of the Year for John Q. Hammons Field in 2008, 2013 and 2014. In 2015, Brock completed his 11th year with the Springfield Cardinals and his ninth at Hammons Field.

Keith Winter, the Fort Wayne TinCaps’ head groundskeeper, is the recipient of the Single-A award for the third year in a row. Winter has won six consecutive Midwest League “Field/Grounds Crew of the Year” awards. In 2015, he completed his ninth season in professional baseball and was awarded a third consecutive STMA Class A “National Field of the Year” award.

In the Short Season-A or Rookie classifications, the Spokane Indians’ head groundskeeper David Yearout is the winner for the second consecutive season. In September, the Northwest League recognized Avista Stadium, home of the Spokane Indians, as the NWL Field of the Year for the 11th consecutive season, and the 17th time in the last 19 years.

“Each year, we highlight Minor League Baseball members with the recognition they deserve for producing high-quality, safe and playable fields, said Kim Heck, CEO of STMA. “In an industry where Mother Nature is unpredictable, these individuals find innovative and persistent ways to maintain excellent field conditions.”

“Minor League Baseball takes great pride in providing state-of-the-art facilities to our thousands of players across our 15 leagues and our millions of fans across the country,” said Pat O’Conner, Minor League Baseball President & CEO. “Each year, along with STMA, we recognize the individuals who have been instrumental in ensuring that our playing surfaces are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also meet professional baseball’s field condition requirements.”

The 2015 league winners are as follows:




InternationalJohn StewartSyracuse Chiefs
Pacific CoastAndy BeggsEl Paso Chihuahuas
MexicanTeofilo HernandezPuebla Parrots
EasternMatt ParrottBowie Baysox
SouthernRay SayrePensacola Blue Wahoos
TexasBrock PhippsSpringfield Cardinals
CaliforniaRex WhitneyRancho Cucamonga Quakes
CarolinaMike SoperFrederick Keys
Florida StateOpie CheekClearwater Threshers
MidwestKeith WinterFort Wayne TinCaps
South AtlanticJake HollowayGreensboro Grasshoppers
New York-PennBrian RhodesAuburn Doubledays
NorthwestDavid YearoutSpokane Indians
AppalachianMark WashburnDanville Braves
PioneerKen KopinskiOgden Raptors
Gulf CoastMatt JohnsonGulf Coast Blue Jays