I am the … Head Groundskeeper of Arm & Hammer Park
For the … Trenton (New Jersey) Thunder, Class AA affiliate of the New York Yankees
What field care product/piece of equipment could you not live without? We have so many pieces of equipment and hand tools we rely on everyday, but I would have to say our mowers. It would be a challenge to have a consistent height of cut for everyone who uses our playing surface.
Complete this sentence: “If I weren’t a field care pro, I would be …” Still working in the grounds department of a golf course.
What’s your favorite sports movie and why? “The Mighty Ducks.” Growing up it was my first sports related movie. I still watch it on a regular basis.
What path led you to a career in sports field management? I saw a posting in our local newspaper that a country club was looking for summer help. I applied and just kept calling until the [golf course] superintendent called back and said he didn’t really have a spot, but my persistence showed I wanted to work and he offered me a job.
What types of fields and turf areas are you responsible for? I am responsible for our 2.5- acre, sand-based Kentucky bluegrass field. I also oversee the contractors who maintain the outside of the ballpark.
What are the biggest challenges in maintaining the facility? The majority of our events are all baseball-associated events, whether it’s a high school game, baseball showcases or even a couple of corporate softball games. We are fortunate to have two days prior to any [Thunder] home series free of any extra events. This gives us the opportunity to get everything back in order for the next set of Thunder games.
What has been the most memorable moment of your career? [Being] hired as the head groundskeeper for the Thunder. I knew after taking the seasonal assistant position that the road after that season was going to be an unknown one. When that season ended I said to myself, “The goal is to get back here and be the guy for the Thunder.” Little did I know that call would come in February of 2014. I am grateful everyday for the opportunity.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned on the job? Handling my staff and to have fun. People learn at different paces than others and teaching the way you want things to be done doesn’t click for everyone, so you have to find different ways to connect.
How do you predict the sports field industry will evolve in the future? I hope students in turf programs take a look at becoming sports field managers. Turf programs aren’t just for students to be funneled into the golf side of turf anymore.
What do you wish spectators/players/coaches knew about your job? The time we put in. A lot of people think we just show up and mow grass and throw some water on the infield skin and that’s it.
What is the most important quality required to be a successful field manager? Communication. You need to be able to talk with different staff members about the field on a regular basis.
What advice would you give aspiring field managers? Never stop learning and do not be afraid to make a mistake. Some of the best lessons I have learned have been from a mistake.
Who have been your biggest influences/mentors? My twin brother, Matt. He and I are unique set of twins; we do the same thing for a living. Matt spent some time as a minor league baseball groundskeeper in Hagerstown (Maryland) and New Hampshire. I don’t think a day goes by that a text or phone call isn’t made or sent between us that doesn’t have something to do with turf. He is always someone I can call to get an opinion. It’s a lot of fun.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF MIKE KERNS.