Turf managers contribute to overall success of their employers

We asked some STMA members for examples of how they or colleagues impact the overall success of their organizations. Here are the responses we received:

Patrick “Irish” Coakley, CSFM

Sports Turf Superintendent

Ripken Stadium, Aberdeen, MD

For years in our industry, and especially in Minor League Baseball, our positions were (and still are in some places) viewed as non-revenue positions. We were operations, so we spent money, we didn’t bring any in. My argument against this line of thinking has two parts: one is while we may not bring in revenue; we are revenue insurance. Our efforts via tarp pulls, grading and all the maintenance procedures we carry out, directly affect a field’s ability to withstand weather events and remain safe for play. Anyone that works for a “for profit” company in our business understands that if you don’t play, you don’t make money. Our jobs insure the revenue coming in.

The second part of the argument directly contradicts the non-revenue title. The field is a revenue generator by itself. Other than a MiLB game, people seek to use the playing surface for college games, high school championships, concerts, etc. The reason people seek out these fields is because of the high quality. You would not be able to generate the extra, or non-traditional revenue, if the field was not of a standard that made it worth paying for.

Another aspect to look at would be the relationships we develop with vendors in our industry—materials, equipment and all the people we are involved with behind the scenes that help us put out good products. Many times these vendors become business partners with our clubs and it is because of the relationships we build. In many cases, sports turf managers become sales people in the off season and bring in money for their clubs by selling advertising, tickets, etc. to the vendors they deal with.

One thing we are specifically doing at Ripken Experience is an educational series that will be going on our website. Many coaches of our tournament teams end up as the sports turf manager of their home field, with no training or education in field maintenance. We are hoping to provide them with some basics and resources to get help. We will be teaming up with our partners to put together a series of short videos addressing fertilization, infield maintenance, mound and plates, etc. This will not only provide some more inventory for advertising sales but also provide some much needed and sought after education for the coaches of our tournament teams and hopefully anyone that has to take care of a baseball field. We are at the beginning of this venture and hope to have the videos up in 2016.

Along the same lines, there probably isn’t a sports turf manager out there who hasn’t helped or continually helps their local community fields in some way. Whether by giving advice to actually giving their time to provide some needed labor, we are constantly out answering that call for help.

Will Rogers, CSFM

Sports Turf Manager

Clover (SC) School District

[At the K-12 level] we are asked to do more than just maintain sports turf. We may be asked to move teachers to different classrooms, move furniture from school to school, move bleachers, clean roof drains and gutters, paint inside the schools, help the plumbing department, plant shrub beds, clean parking lots, and a number of other things. We as a group may buy drinks for away trips for our athletes. Frank Falls from our staff heads up Moped to Memphis, a charity group for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Lee Clinton entered a woman-less beauty pageant to raise money for M2M. We all want to support our athletes. We want our community to have pride in what we do on our fields and in return we want to help in community activities.

Andy Ommen

Head Groundskeeper

McLean County (IL) PONY Baseball

We had a large auto dealer buy us all brand new scoreboards in 2013. They wanted to be a sponsor on the scoreboard after we contacted them and when they saw how old our boards were, they bought us all new ones. They had heard of our complex but really never been physically at our complex. The fall they were installed, they asked if they could host their employee appreciation picnic at our complex and have a softball game. We went “full ground crew” on them including pre-game wet down. They had an absolute blast. They were so blown away with the quality our facility, and the number of games we play and kids we have, they wanted to help us out even more. They have continued to donate money and last year paid for all of our outfields to be fully irrigated. They have come back each year and continue to have their employee appreciation picnic at our place with the highlight being the softball game.

Martin Kaufman, CSFM

GCA Services

Nashville, TN

Most of the time sports field managers are also event managers/coordinators, assistant (or substitute) facility directors, and backup leaders in emergency situations. In short, we are involved in logistics.

In addition we are relied on to manage environmental issues and sustainability inputs.

At every facility where I have worked, I have dealt with parking, crowd management, emergency management, security, winter weather, creating Arboretums, setting up for events like concerts and parties, as well as custodial duties after fundraising and sporting events. In many cases I was the contact for any construction plans and operations as subcontractors arrived. Once I became very involved in implementing a property-wide storm water management plan that included reforesting, remeadowing, and specific turf management for specific spaces in addition to rain garden implementations. I even got involved in permeable concrete!

Sports turf managers are logistical problem solvers and leaders when it comes to resource management be it people, property buildings or equipment. We are required to wear so many hats, including financial, that leading organizations is the next step once we figure out how to deal with politics and media.

I accepted a new job 3 months ago with GCA Services (Tim Moore, CSFM, is the VP of Grounds for this multistate management company). It is great to be valued as an expert to the customer and leader in accountability for the subcontractor. The impact on success of organizations results from STMA members representing their organizations in the community and professional industry. We are the experts and we make our organizations look good!

Ken Edwards, CSFM

Sports Turf Manager

City of Gulfport (MS)

For the past 7 years I have volunteered as the baseball and softball groundskeeper for the high school my kids attended. I took on this responsibility because the county I live in built two new schools and they both got new facilities. While attending a school function I overheard the kids saying that they had crappy fields so I decided that I should do something. I contacted the coach and boy, was he overjoyed.

The first 2 years I did most of the work on the fields during the off-season and on weekends and evenings. The head and assistant coaches would help out when they could. I had an idea that everyone should be involved in the maintenance especially the parents and players. I approached the coaches with the idea of a family and friend workday before the start of the next season. Field work day would be scheduled at least 4 weeks before the start of the spring training and involve players, coaches, parents and friends all working together on the fields. The players and coaches then would maintain the fields.

All the school had for equipment was a mower and four-wheeler for dragging the infield so we did a resource inventory. I made a list of equipment needs and materials and passed it out to all the parents. It included items such as clay dirt, sand, sod, tractor, loader, tiller, compactor and hand tools. Little did I know that between all the parents someone in the group had access to every item on the list and was willing to donate or loan it to the school.

The first workday was a big hit. I had about 35 people ready to work. I created stations; batter’s box, bases, pitching mound, outfield, infield, fence lines, bull pens, transition lines and dugouts. I personally walked the group through each station and gave proper instructions on every task required to maintain a ball field.

The biggest hit was the pitcher’s mound. Of course it was in the worst shape. I gathered all the pitchers and their families around the mound. I gave them instructions on how to measure and cut out the mound. They did all the work. I pulled out a mound slope gauge and had them set it up. That drew the attention of everyone on the field. They never heard of a slope gauge. Together we built a regulation high school pitcher’s mound to exact specifications. According to the head coach, that was the first time to his knowledge it was ever done.

Through this effort those ball fields are in great shape, the athletes and boosters are donating more time and resources than ever before and the kids are no longer calling their fields crappy. Now that everyone is involved I don’t have to spend as much time on those fields but I regularly stop by to check on them. I also look forward to family field day at the start of the season. It has become a big event. All the new kids and parents get to learn field maintenance procedures and I get to eat some great southern fried fish.