I am the…
Sports Turf Department Supervisor
City of Union City, Tennessee
What field care product/piece of equipment could you not live without?
For baseball and softball, a leveling rake for daily care of dirt and grass areas. I find that I use a leveling rake most during my daily care of baseball and softball fields. For football, the Graco FieldLazer painter—straight white lines on football fields are a must!
Complete this sentence: “If I weren’t a field care pro, I would be …
A sports broadcaster and voice-over talent for radio and television. I did this full time from 1981 until 2005 and continue to do it on a part-time basis.
What’s your favorite sports movie and why?
“Field of Dreams.” I always wanted to have a baseball field in my back yard.
What path led you to a career in sports field management?
As a kid, I was always around the local ball fields. A teammate of mine and his father were taking care of one of the fields and asked me to help. So, when I was 14 and 15 years old, I took care of the local Babe Ruth field. Once I started managing a youth league team in 1994, I was asked to help with field maintenance. During the 11 years I managed a baseball team, sports turf management became a hobby and fascination. In 2005, I had the opportunity to be on the front end of the sports turf management department here in Union City. I jumped at the chance.
What types of fields and turf areas are you responsible for?
Nine baseball and softball fields, four soccer fields, two football practice fields, one marching band practice field, and football game field, for which we won the 2009 STMA High School Football Field of the Year award.
What are the biggest challenges in maintaining the facility?
Eight of our nine baseball and softball fields and all of our soccer fields are in a flood zone. At least once a year, they’re under water. Several different unwanted items are brought in by flood waters—like weeds, snakes, snapping turtles and debris in common areas. Once you’ve been chased by an angry mother copperhead, every other challenge is minor in stature! For our football game field, the biggest challenge is keeping it a top-quality playing surface considering the usage it receives—approximately 30 high school, junior varsity, junior high and peewee football games, 12 to 15 high school and junior high soccer games, occasional band practices, a band contest with 30 bands performing, and other community events during a 10-month period each year. Our summer maintenance program is extremely important and we adhere to it closely as we prepare for this physical onslaught the field endures from August through May.
What has been the most memorable moment of your career?
Winning the 2009 STMA High School Football Field of the Year award was incredible, but the friendships and mentoring afforded me is even more important. This “giving back,” in a sense, is very rewarding. Also, the University of Tennessee at Martin is 10 miles away, so we have several people from their turf school work with us. I really enjoy helping the students learn things outside the classroom that they can take with them after they graduate.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned on the job?
No matter how much you may want to hurry through a project, always remember to slow down and make sure the job is done correctly. Treat those that help you with respect and they’ll tend to perform at a higher level. Plus, make sure that your crew is properly trained and equipped for every job it encounters.
How do you predict the sports field industry will evolve in the future?
We’ll need to find better practices without the use of so many chemicals. Especially when you’re located in a [residential] neighborhood, you have to be mindful of what goes into the ground. I try to limit the overuse of chemicals and other products. I know many folks in our business go by a set routine, but I’ve found that being a bit more environmentally friendly has paid off at our fields.
What do you wish spectators/players/coaches knew about your job?
That the knowledge and time it takes to do the job is more than they realize. I love it when I hear, “All you do is mow,” or “I wish I could sit around on a baseball field all day.” I just smile and nod my head, knowing full well what we do is a bit more than what they do with their yards at home. That being said, we do have a fair amount of people in our community that know what we do here and respect the results. Those are the people that you work hard for and you ignore the ones that are negative.
What is the most important quality required to be a successful field manager?
Learn each day what is being taught. Being in the transition zone, I find that we’re adjusting to Mother Nature almost on a daily basis. We have to change or adapt our practices to whatever is being thrown at us constantly. That in itself is a continuing education. Also, listening to my peers—more times than not, they present something that will aid me in my job.
What advice would you give aspiring field managers?
Work hard, keep an open mind and listen to what everyone in the business has to say. Learn what your fields need to perform at the highest level.
Who have been your biggest influences/mentors?
Our department director, Stephen C. Crocket, for giving me the opportunity to work with this department ten years go. Also, people like Bill Marbet, Mike Clay, Tom Nielsen, Dr. Tom Samples and Bob McCurdy.