I had the great pleasure to go to Hawaii in late June to help honor a great person and friend, Walter “Wally” Komatsubara. Wally was honored by the people of Hawaii for all his dedicated free work in helping all sports on their playing fields. The turnout was terrific: players, high school and college coaches, the governor, the mayor, NFL and Boston Red Sox representatives and many friends. I met Wally 29 years ago in Honolulu at the Pro Bowl. He was a captain on the fire department and furnished the hoses and nozzles to help remove the Pro Bowl painted logos from the field. Hawaii has some very poor playing fields for all sports, and Wally is dedicated to helping fix them. I would stay an extra week each year and we would work together on many fields.
Wally is also a Boston Red Sox scout and proudly wears two Boston Red Sox World Series rings. Wally is my age, 80, and still works very hard on sports fields, and he does it for free. He has taught coaches, players and volunteers how to build and maintain sports fields.
I have been helping Hall of Fame baseball player George Brett on a high school baseball field in the Kansas City area. In today’s economy, with many cutbacks, George, the baseball players and parents, plus other volunteers, took over the high school baseball field doing something Wally has been doing for 29 years.
I was proud to watch Wally’s students work on their fields, just as I was to watch the students work on their field along with George Brett. That’s real teamwork. George Brett is a terrific worker; you should see him on a roller or cutting the grass or dragging the infield, along with coaching. He’s a great inspiration for the players, coaches and parents. Again, thanks to Wally and George for what they are doing.
I still cannot see why we have so many problems building fields today. I talked to a group of parks and recreation employees and their beef was it seems like they get saddled with too many badly built fields. With all the knowledge out there today, it should not happen, but it does. Sometimes we get too sophisticated on building fields when a regular field works out better. On TV, I saw a sophisticated baseball field. It rained, and it seems like there were about 20 people with roller squeegees pushing water around.
I am still very proud of the two practice fields built by Jim Eagle for the Kansas City Chiefs. They are 20 years old and still working great. And, I am very proud and give a big thank you to Scotty Martin, who has maintained these fields for 20 years.
How about the great job Trevor Vance does for the Kansas City Royals? He has one of the best fields in baseball, and it’s in the transition zone. That field is now 14 years old. Even after a heavy rain he can dump the tarp to the outfield, and by the time he brings it back, the water is gone. One can see it bubbling as it drains.
One thing to remember: George P. Toma is not negative; I tell it like it is. If you all saw as many bad fields as I have, and heard about as many bad fields, you all would be concerned, too. We all need to look in the mirror and say, “I have to do my best, and then some.” My hat goes off to all of you dedicated groundskeepers, from the T-ball fields to the majors, who do whatever it takes to get the job done right.
Here’s some updated information on October’s Toma Tales. Following the submission of that month’s column, I found out that the Times-Shamrock newspaper has issued an update stating that Richard W. Neumann did not work for the Motz Group; he worked with them on a field project 15 years ago. Also, staff writer Charles Schillinger has reported that, “The authority that oversees PNC Field has no plans to sue the company [The Motz Group] that installed the grass turf at PNC Field three years ago.” Also noted in ongoing reports, the county’s consultant had estimated the latest reconstruction for the field to be somewhere around $650,000. The low bid to do the job was nearly twice that.
George Toma is an NFL Hall of Fame inductee, one of the founders of the Sports Turf Managers Association and mentor to hundreds of sports field managers over his 67 years in the profession.