Re-Post: Cutting The Grass With Tommy Tamaska
Exclusive Interview: Phillies Spring Training Head Groundskeeper
When arriving early at any baseball game, usually the first thing you see are the grounds crew getting the field ready for a game, and if you get there early enough, you may even get the aroma of fresh cut grass on a game day afternoon.
Rarely do you see a stadium that the grass is not crisp and green, with the edges cut perfectly along the dirt lines from the majors all the way down to the minor league fields. One of the things I have always marveled at is how the groundskeepers take pride in all they do to make sure that the field is in pristine playing condition each and every game.
A baseball field is just as important as the ball players, because without the diamond there isn’t a game, and any organization that has pride in the presentation of their field, will find the right person who cares enough in what they do to make sure that the field is top priority.
In the Philadelphia Phillies organization that person is Tommy Tamaska.
Tamaska, is a Certified Sports Field Manager and Head Groundskeeper at the Carpenter Complex in Clearwater, Fla., home of the Gulf Coast League Phillies and Philadelphia’s spring training operations since 2009. He also holds the title as the 2010 Sports Turf Manager of the Year in Short Season or Rookie classification, which he achieved his first year with the Phillies. The award is sponsored by the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA).
I was fortunate enough to catch up with the Groundskeeping extraordinaire in the middle of his busy day for an exclusive interview for Legends on Deck and he shared with me what it meant to win the Sports Turf award, “It was my first year with the Phillies organization, and it was a huge step in my career, which started me out on the right foot and in the direction with where I wanted to be,” says Tamaska.
As he continued to look back on the Sports Turf award from 2010, Tamaska shared with me how important it was to put in the hard work right out of the gates with the Phillies.
“I believe a lot of goes back to your staff and the amount of work that you are willing to put in and anybody could have just sat back the first year and kind of coasted along but I wanted to make sure that I took the bull by the horn and made a name for myself, not only in our organization, but now in the industry. The hard work does pay off and you may not know every little detail about it, but as long as you are willing to put in the hours, it will pay off.”
Tamaska started his journey by first going to school to learn how to run a successful landscaping business, and while taking classes, his focus turned to sports turf, which opened a door for an opportunity to seek employment with the Cincinnati Reds organization.
“The first day that the Reds brought me in for the interview, I remember standing out in center field and when they opened the gates, I walked onto the warning track and it was my first time on a Major League Baseball field.” He continues, “I remember how overwhelming it was and I knew at that moment I found a profession that I fell in love with and was the channel I wanted to pursue in my career.”
[pullquote]When I started with the Reds in 2007-2008, I was new to the industry and a Major League program, but I gained so much knowledge that it helped me to build a good foundation. [/pullquote]
Like many of us, when we go to a game the focus is on the players, but what about the field, “I never realized this aspect of it and how much detail it would take with the groundskeeping, you just go to a game and you see a beautiful field, you don’t even think twice what goes into it,” says the Head Groundskeeper.
Tamaska is a very knowledgeable person when it comes to his job and truly understanding of what will work in any situation especially with the weather in Florida, which is key when maintaining healthy grass, “We have a warm seasoned grass of Bermuda, different then the northern type of grass, and it absolutely loves the sun and the heat and the hotter the sun the better as long as you feed it nutrients and water, it’s going to grow.”
Working on the minor league complex and being a part of a professional organization is a job that Tamaska is very thankful to have, but the dream of one day working on a Major League field is always a reality.
“That [Major League Field] has always been my dream and a goal for my career is to be the Head Groundskeeper at a Major League ball park. I believe in putting in your time and paying your dues, and all the hard work will pay off eventually. He continues, “I am in no rush because I have a lot of learning to do and I also realize that I am only five years into this industry. But I am very excited for the next step and I am hopeful that is the outcome.”
Success in any career path is key, but also being able to share with someone new the skills needed to gain the knowledge to become successful, can be a priceless opportunity. Tamaska shared with me how his path brought him to where he is today and how someone new in the industry can also benefit from such a journey.
“I would say my path was a good one, and for someone new in the industry, it is important to start off at a turf school, or a landscaping school, and receive the information and knowledge that is required.”
Tamaska continues, “The school I attended was very good with co-op opportunities, which is where they place you with job opportunities to gain the experience needed. For someone wanting this as their profession, definitely working in landscaping or a golf course or even in a company that deals with sports turf; would be a great way to break into this profession. That was a huge part of the success of my career.”
The Certified Sports Field Manager is living the dream of anyone that is looking to break into this industry and to be able to join a new organization at a time when his career was just taking off and become as successful right from the start is a huge accomplishment. Plus Tamaska understands that is he in the perfect spot at this point in his career.
“Five years ago I landed a job with the Phillies organization and they brought me to Florida and it has been such a blessing to work for this company. They do everything the right way, they are a world class family organization and I couldn’t be happier with the situation I am in now.”
The Phillies have a great leader managing their baseball grounds in Florida and the fans will always be treated with great looking fields, because Tommy Tamaska wouldn’t have it any other way.
(All Photos Courtesy of Gabe Rodriguez/Legends on Deck)