What field care product/piece of equipment could you not live without? Primo Maxx, Syngenta’s plant growth regulator.
Complete this sentence: “If I weren’t a field care pro, I would be …” A history teacher and in the Missouri Army National Guard.
What path led you to a career in sports turf? For two and half years following high school, I worked for Dave Fearis — eventual president of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America — at Blue Hills Country Club in Kansas City, Missouri. Even though he knew I was saving money for college to become a teacher, he spent endless hours schooling me on turf operations and life itself. With Dave’s encouragement, I enrolled at the University of Central Missouri. During my first week there, I spotted a long-haired guy wearing a straw hat, spraying the football field. I stopped to ask what he was spraying. The guy turned out to be future sports turf legend Vince Patterozzi, who offered me a job on the spot. Six years later I had two degrees — one from UCM and one from “Patterozzi U” — and I knew what I was meant to do.
What types of fields and turf areas are you responsible for? FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland features a Kentucky bluegrass field. I’m also responsible for the practice fields and all landscaping at the club’s training facility in Berea. I’m very fortunate to have one outstanding crew taking care of both facilities, with Scott Springer leading at the training facility and Neal Pate (who I believe to be the best field manager in the NFL) at FirstEnergy.
What are the biggest challenges in maintaining your facility? Having one crew and sharing assets to care for two facilities 25 minutes apart creates some logistical and timing concerns, especially in the midst of the season. But Russell Horn, Jeff Witt and Andrew Bossard do an exceptional job.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned on the job? It’s not your field! Instead, be like the crew chief of a NASCAR team. Do everything possible to make the car and crew the best you can and then advise the driver (coach, club ownership, special events staff) on how it should be driven and what the expectations are.
How do you predict the sports turf industry will evolve in the future? There will be an increase in accountability to provide safe and responsible practices for the end users, as well as for the green spaces in the communities we serve.
What advice would you give aspiring field managers? Whether you’re mowing, painting, fertilizing, laying floor for a concert or picking up trash, do it with the utmost attention, competence and enthusiasm.
Who have been your biggest influences/mentors? My wife, Stephanie. She’s been my rock every step of the way and has made so many sacrifices so that I could realize my dream. I’m also very fortunate to have two strong sports turf mentors in Vince Patterozzi and Andre Bruce. Also, I want to thank every other sports turf manager out there — I probably have stolen ideas from you, too. Go Browns!