Full disclosure: I never had the pleasure of meeting Leo Goertz.
But that doesn’t mean I can’t pay tribute in this space to the longtime Texas A&M University athletic field manager, who died this past December at the too-young age of 55. In my travels covering the industry, I’ve heard so many good things about Leo. Dedicating my monthly column to a beloved industry figure is the least I can do.
Leo A. Goertz was born Aug. 5, 1960, and started his longtime association with Texas A&M athletics in 1978 as a student baseball trainer and manager.
A native of New Braunfels, Texas, Goertz graduated from Texas A&M in 1985 and later that year was honored by Diamond Dry Collegiate Baseball as the Groundskeeper of the Year. Speaking of baseball, according to an http://AggieSports.com tribute after his passing, Goertz was beloved by every single baseball player who came through Texas A&M.
In 1996, Goertz was named the athletic field manager for the entire Aggie athletics department, including Kyle Field (the Aggies’ iconic football stadium).
In 1997, Goertz and the Texas A&M softball grounds crew were awarded the Turface National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Field of the Year award at the regional level. They won the same award in 1999, but at the national level. In 2000, Goertz’s work was again recognized, this time with the College Soccer Field of the Year award by the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA). In 2004, the field crew won the STMA College Football Field of the Year award and the NFCA Regional Softball Field of the Year.
Goertz was a fixture at industry conferences as a speaker, both national and regional. In his time at Texas A&M, he hired many assistants and students who have since gone on to become groundskeepers across the country.
Craig Potts, who began working with Goertz in 1996, told http://AggieSports.com that Goertz “loved to talk about the game, he loved to talk about turfgrass. And he would talk to anybody, all the time, about it.”
Potts also said this about his mentor: “He was a guiding force, a driving force for our staff, for the whole state and really for our industry, and even the NCAA, as far as college athletic grounds.” Potts also told the website that a common scene was seeing Goertz in his baseball pants, watering Olsen Field (home of the Texas A&M baseball program), getting recognized by the crowd.
“He never would admit to you he liked people,” Potts recalled. “He just wanted to be low-key. One of his favorite sayings was ‘A pat on the back is just 6 inches from a kick in the ass.’ He didn’t want the notoriety, but I think, in his heart, he ate it up.”
SportsField Management profiled Goertz in the “Hello, My Name Is” feature in our May 2014 issue. One of the questions was, “What advice would you give aspiring field managers?”
“Every day I try to live by these three adages:
- The two best teachers in life are experience and mistakes.
- In some small way I can improve on yesterday, today.
- Nothing is always wrong; even a clock that is broken is right twice a day.
Our job gives us the unique opportunity at the end of the day to stop, turn around and see what we have done that day. Don’t be afraid to stop, turn around and admire that work.”
Here’s to a true icon of the profession.
You’ll be missed, Leo.