Tommy Tamaska, Assistant Field Supervisor, Florida Operations, Philadelphia Phillies
What path led you to a career in sports field management? Growing up I always loved being outdoors and doing landscape work. I received a degree in turfgrass management and landscape horticulture from Cincinnati State, which led me to where I am today.
What types of fields and turf areas are you responsible for? I am responsible for the 12-acre baseball spring training facility used by the Philadelphia Phillies and its minor league affiliates. Four fields along with nine bullpens (19 mounds in total) all sitting on a sand base with Tifway 419 bermuda throughout.
What are the biggest challenges in maintaining the facility? The amount of use. With players starting to show up Jan. 1 and events scheduled through Nov. 15 there is very little window to get your cultural practices in. It’s rare for there not to be some activity every day on the fields. Scheduling and communication is very important so we can utilize every opportunity to give the fields the care they need.
What field care product/piece of equipment could you not live without? I would say our Toro 5510 five-gang reel mower. With bermudagrass growing as rapidly as it does in the summer, our Toro 5510 is used daily to mow our four outfields.
What has been the most memorable moment of your career? In 2010, I received the Sports Turf Manager of the Year award, presented by the STMA, for the best overall fields in rookie baseball. It was such a great accomplishment because it was also my first year with the Philadelphia Phillies, and it got my career started on the right foot.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned on the job? Take advice and listen to others. I feel the best way to learn is through experience, and if you can gain knowledge from others that have been through the situation at hand, it is best to hear them out and find out what they learned from it.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF TOMMY TAMASKA.
How do you predict the sports field industry will evolve in the future? It is no longer the farm boy on the tractor taking care of the fields. With technology, schooling and budgeting, this is a new era for groundskeeping. I believe this field will grow tremendously with new techniques, cultural practices and new technology geared toward a better end product.
What do you wish spectators/players/coaches knew about your job? When the team is not here (on the road for an away stand or it’s the off-season), the grounds staff is. Preparation and predicting the future keeps us ahead of the game so we can best manage any situation while the team is here and a game is going on.
What is the most important quality required to be a successful field manager? Communication and hard work. There is so much communication with managers, coaches, trainers and the front office; everyone has to be on the same page for it to run smoothly. As far as a hardworking personality, you simply have to be a go-getter and a worker to survive in this field. There are long, irregular hours, hard work under extreme weather conditions, and jobs that demand meticulous detail under the most unfavorable conditions.
What advice would you give aspiring field managers? I would highly recommend getting started in an accredited turf school. Do your homework before getting started; find a school that has a co-op program and has a good track record in job placement.
Who have been your biggest influences/mentors? I did a two-year internship with the Cincinnati Reds Major League team. Head Groundskeeper Doug Gallant and Assistant Groundskeeper Derrick Grubbs taught me almost everything I know when it comes to perfecting professional baseball fields. The internship was 100 percent hands-on, so learning fast was a must to be a successful groundskeeper.
Complete this sentence: “If I weren’t a field care pro, I would be.” A consultant dealing with new construction sports fields. There are a lot of things teams/organizations don’t anticipate when it comes to designing and building new fields. During the design process, this is when you can make changes and implement new technology that will pay great dividends down the road.