FORT WAYNE, Ind. — Since the Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA) and Minor League Baseball (MiLB) first began honoring a Sports Turf Manager of the Year in 2004, no one had ever won the award in back-to-back years at the Single-A level. That is, until now.
TinCaps Head Groundskeeper Keith Winter is the 2014 Single-A STMA/MiLB Sports Turf Manager of the Year for the second consecutive year. Prior to Winter, a Midwest League Groundskeeper had never received the accolade.
“This is an award I’m proud to receive,” Winter said. “But what I’m most proud of is the commitment of the entire TinCaps organization to having the best surface possible at Parkview Field. From our entire grounds crew to our front office to our ownership group, Hardball Capital, it’s important to everyone to carry out our mission of striving for excellence.”
Winter was a candidate for the distinction after the TinCaps won the Midwest League’s Grounds Crew of the Year Award for an unprecedented fifth straight season in 2014. The other finalists for the Single-A Sports Turf Manager of the Year were the winners of the field of the year in the California League, the Carolina League, the Florida State League, and the South Atlantic League.
“It’s great to see when people are rewarded for their hard work,” TinCaps President Mike Nutter said. “That’s certainly the case here for Keith and our entire Grounds Crew. Considering the high quality of the playing surfaces around the Midwest League and throughout all of Single-A, it’s amazing to see this recognition come to Parkview Field again.”
Winter and his grounds crew maintained their typical excellence in 2014 despite several obstacles. For one, the field endured a record-setting winter that saw more than 70 inches of snow fall. As a matter of fact, the snow didn’t stop falling in Fort Wayne at the end of the winter. The TinCaps’ game at Parkview Field on April 14 ended in the seventh inning as two inches of snow fell. Nevertheless, the team was able to play the next day — something no other MLB or MiLB team in the region could do.
Parkview Field also hosted the Parkview Sports Medicine High School Baseball Series featuring 14 games in April and May. Additionally, the ballpark welcomed a record 13,500 fans for the Florida Georgia Line-Nelly Concert on June 19. Four days later, the TinCaps were back home.
Other major events on the field throughout the year include Fort4Fitness (a race festival that has more than 10,000 runners cross home plate as the finish line), The Bear Birthday Bash, and CountryFest. Those two concerts bring 20,000-plus fans onto the field. That’s just the shortlist of non-baseball events that occur on the playing surface downtown.
“Minor League Baseball takes great pride in providing state-of-the-art facilities to our thousands of players across our 15 leagues and our millions of fans across the country,” said Pat O’Conner, Minor League Baseball President & CEO. “Each year, along with STMA, we recognize the individuals who have been instrumental in ensuring that our playing surfaces are not only physically appealing, but also meet professional baseball’s field condition requirements.”
“The Minor League Baseball ‘Sports Turf Manager of the Year’ award is a dedication to our members who have an intense passion to provide the finest playing surfaces,” said Kim Heck, CEO of STMA. “Each day, they face new challenges and these devoted individuals consistently create novel solutions to provide pristine and safe sports fields.”
Winter will receive the award at the Baseball Winter Meetings in San Diego on Monday, Dec. 8. STMA and MiLB will also present a Sports Turf Manager of the Year Award at the Double-A and Triple-A levels, as well as for the Short Season/Rookie classification.
2014 TinCaps Accolades to Date
* Minor League Baseball/STMA Single-A Sports Turf Manager of the Year – Keith Winter
* Minor League Baseball’s Team of the Year (Ballpark Digest)
* Minor League Baseball’s No. 1 Ballpark Experience (Stadium Journey)
* Minor League Baseball’s Best New Food Item – BIG APPLE (Ballpark Digest)
* Minor League Baseball’s Top Offensive Player – Mallex Smith
* Midwest League Rawlings Woman Executive of the Year – Abby Naas
* Midwest League Sports Turf Manager/Grounds Crew of the Year
* Midwest League Postseason All-Star – Jake Bauers
* Midwest League All-Star Classic Bunting Contest Champion – Mallex Smith