SFMA Members in the News
Photo courtesy of Texas A&M University

SFMA Members in the News

Sharing the stories of sports field managers or having an SFMA member featured in a media article, where he or she is weighing in on an important topic of the day, is a great way to spread awareness about the profession. Every so often, we like to feature some of the efforts of the SFMA PR team and share some of the earned media recognition that the association has received in recent months.

Like virtually all industries, the sports field management profession was hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic. Leagues of all levels were shut down, there was uncertainty about when our facilities would be open to the public, and, worst of all, everyone from top professional sports leagues to local parks and recreation departments were forced to furlough or layoff staff to align with budget cuts caused by the pandemic.

By the time 2021 rolled around, the world was hoping to get back to some semblance of “normal,” and that included sports field managers. SFMA Board member, and Baltimore Orioles Head Groundskeeper, Nicole Sherry, was interviewed and featured in Sports Illustrated about what working through the pandemic was like. She explained in detail about going to Camden Yards and taking care of the field by herself. She normally oversees a crew of two dozen, but maintaining the legendary field during COVID became a solo gig that required four-and-a-half hours just to mow.

After 14 seasons as the Orioles’ head groundskeeper, she was used to spending time in the stadium without fans and even without players, but she had never before worked the field completely, totally alone. – Sports Illustrated

It was an eye-opening article about the hard work done behind the scenes by sports field managers to keep fields ready for the return of sports. The piece showed the profession in a very positive light and included the quote, “There is a reason, after all, that former MLB owner and promoter Bill Veeck said a good groundskeeper could be as valuable as a .300 hitter.”

Sherry would again make headlines in one of the most popular media outlets in the world, as she spoke with Forbes about not only the trials and tribulations of the pandemic, but about being a trailblazer as one of only two female MLB head groundskeepers. The piece detailed her background and road to the profession, highlighting the key role her grounds crew played in ensuring both spring training and opening day went off without a hitch during the difficult 2020 and 2021 seasons.

Getting through the 2020 season was the latest chapter in a career that has seen Sherry join Heather Nabozny of the Detroit Tigers as the only female head groundskeepers in Major League Baseball. – Forbes

On the lighter side, Sherry was featured on the CBS television affiliate in Washington D.C. and Baltimore in a segment about “best practices” that everyday folks can employ on their own lawns to get them looking like the beautiful turf at Camden Yards. The advice shared from a Major League Baseball groundskeeper was very well received by the studio staff and viewers.

With the baseball season winding down and NFL and college football heating up, the early fall saw perhaps the top sports business publication – Sports Business Journal – write an excellent exposition on the sports field management industry. It spoke of the hard work and dedication of the men and women who care for our fields, and the passion they bring to the job. Featured extensively was SFMA Past President Nick McKenna, CSFM, who was quoted in the piece as saying:

“One of the great things about being a sports field manager is you can walk away at the end of the day and see what you’ve accomplished,” said McKenna, who as assistant athletic fields manager shares responsibility for the turf at Texas A&M’s Kyle Field. “To be able to go in on Saturday and see the football field and the excitement of the team, the players and all the fans, and then to play the game, there’s something satisfying and rewarding about that and the part you play in the process.” – Nick McKenna (Sports Business Journal; Sept 13, 2021)

McKenna was again called into the spotlight when ESPN published a feature piece on the trend of college fans rushing the field after close or intense football games. It was a subject close to his heart and profession. As assistant athletic field manager at Texas A&M, he saw fans rush Kyle Field after the Aggies upset Alabama on October 9. His experience with this and previous situations was shared with the largest sports outlet in the world.

McKenna was prepared with a level of confidence that Jimbo Fisher might appreciate. Less than two weeks before the Alabama game, McKenna said his staff had a meeting to discuss this exact scenario. Then, during the game, he could feel it coming. – ESPN.com

There have been numerous other instances over the past year where a member of SFMA or the association itself was highlighted in a media outlet. Always popular with local news are the annual “Field of the Year” and “Start and Stripes” competitions, which allow members to show off their creativity for fans. This year, MLS.com featured a piece on the New York Red Bulls Arena being selected for Field of the Year, among other regional outlets picking up their local facilities.

One of the largest influxes of media attention came with the early 2022 rebranding of the association from Sports Turf Managers Association to Sports Field Management Association. The news was picked up throughout the industry, including in Sports Business Journal, Athletic Business, Parks and Recreation Business, Sports Destination Management and more. The overwhelming consensus was positive, and these outlets highlight the myriad of reasons for the update and the benefit it would have on everyone involved in the industry.

If you have a story you think the world should know about, or a way to help shine a positive light on the sports field management industry, please share it with SFMA’s public relations partners at the Buffalo Agency by emailing Bill Feidler at bfeidler@buffalo.agency.com.