Dec. 23, 2013


Spartans Earn STMA Award


By Sean Ryan Co-Founder @collbaseball


In November, the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA), the professional association for 2,600 men and women who manage sports fields worldwide, announced its 2013 “Field of the Year Award” winners.


Michigan State’s Kobs Field at McLane Stadium was cited as tops in college baseball. CBI caught up with Amy Fouty, the athletic turf manager, and Jared Knoodle, the groundskeeper, of Michigan State about the award and what goes into taking care of a baseball field.


First Inning – How does it feel to be named the best college baseball field for 2013?  

It is always an honor to be selected by your peers as the “best of the best.”  We are very proud to pursue excellence in our area each day on behalf of our University, Department, and Turfgrass Management program here at Michigan State University (MSU).  As one of our former interns always said, “We set the stage for greatness.” We strive each day for the success of our student-athletes and athletic programs.


Second Inning – Describe the process for being selected Field of the Year.   

A panel of 16 judges independently scored entries based on playability, appearance of surfaces, utilization of innovative solutions, effective use of budget and implementation of a comprehensive agronomic program. Judges may not award a field in each category. Winning fields will be featured in a 2014 issue of Sports Turf MagazineAwards will be presented at the 25th STMA Conference & Exhibition in San Antonio, Texas January 21-24, 2014. The 2013 event was one of the most well-attended in the associations history, with a record 168 exhibitors and 1,600 attendees.


Third Inning – Kobs Field at McLane Baseball Stadium has been transformed over the past seven or eight years. Describe some of what went into this award. 

MSU students, graduates of our Turfgrass Management program, coaches, and our administration have all played roles in the success of our facilities for many years.  The field was renovated in 2006, Amy was the designer and project manager for the field. Jared was an undergraduate intern at the time and worked very long hours on the construction process of the field. Properly constructing a field for our climate and use, understanding of field conditions, and proper scheduling are all critical for athletic fields to be maintained successfully over time.  With this year’s flooding of Old College Fields and challenging weather situations during field use times, we thought it would be an opportune time to honor our small  hard working grounds crew for their accomplishments and dedication.  Many improvements have been made in and around Kobs Field over the past eight years which include anew entrance plaza, press box, stands, indoor hitting and pitching facility, restrooms, and concessions. Michigan State has invested in the experiences for both the student-athletes and fans who come to McLane Stadium.


Fourth Inning – When the field was renovated, was there any thought of going with artificial turf? 

We really did not consider artificial turf as a viable option for our program.  We renovated our field for 1/4 of what it would have cost to install an artificial playing surface.  We want to remain true to the game of baseball, as the MLB is doing, by not installing any more artificial playing surfaces in the league. As long as we allow for maintenance times between practices, rentals, and events, we have found a balance to maintain the facility at a high collegiate level while keeping cost down. 


Fifth Inning – What are some keys to maintaining a grass field and getting it ready for the college season after an East Lansing winter?

After fall practice is completed, we prepare the playing surface so it is ready to go in the spring. This includes mounds being rebuilt, skin leveled, home plate renovation, grass aeration and edge trimming. It is critical to have the right grounds staff with passion, knowledge and experience to keep up with the maintenance of the field each day.  Baseball fields do not require a lot of funding, just time and skills to do basic maintenance.  We are fortunate that our baseball team does little things like broom edges, drag the skin and cover mounds and plates for us each day after use. We can focus on consistent and quality field conditions rather than clean up.


Sixth Inning – What are other challenges you face that Southern fields may not? 

In one spring week in Michigan, you can experience anything from freezing rain, to snow, to rain, or windy-dry conditions. The field reacts differently to all these environmental situations and maintaining consistent, safe playing conditions can be very challenging.  We embrace the adversity we experience and like the challenge in preparation for each game.


Seventh Inning – How did you get into this line of work?

Amy - I have been working in turf for 22 years. I began my career at a golf course taking care of club house ground when I was 17 years old. I worked on the golf side for eight years and attended MSU, earning a Turfgrass Management degree here in 1996.  As time went on, I was given the opportunity to take care of the daily operations for football and soccer field management at the University of Michigan for five seasons. The ultimate opportunity to return to my alma mater came in December of 2003 when I was offered the Athletic Turf Manager position at MSU. I have been here 10 wonderful seasons and take great pride and pleasure doing what I love for the University.


Jared - After graduating high school, I knew I wanted to attend MSU. I learned about the Turfgrass Management program and the rest is history. I love being able to work outside every day and use my hands and tools to perform a task. With the schooling I received from MSU and the skills I acquired working for both the San Francisco Giants and Detroit Tigers, it was great to return to MSU in 2011 and take care of the Old College Fields complex.  I love the satisfaction of preparing a baseball field early in the morning and seeing the finished product right before first pitch. Being able to watch the players play without having to worry about any issue with the playing surface is very gratifying.


Eighth Inning – What are three of the biggest mistakes grounds crews or high school coaches make with their fields? 

1. Overuse would be the primary mistake. 

2. Not having properly trained staff to take care of the facility or funding for supplies and tools.

3. Mismanagement of fields due to or during weather events.


Ninth Inning – Complete the sentence…a baseball field is a sports turf manager’s passion and little piece of heaven on earth.


(photos courtesy of MSU Media Relations Office)