Ray Cipperly Field at the Middlesex County Vo-Tech campus in East Brunswick has been named the baseball field of the year for 2020 for schools and parks.
Sports Turf Managers Association, the professional association for 2,700 men and women who manage sports fields worldwide, annually presents the industry’s highest honors to members who manage baseball, football, soccer, softball and other sporting playing surfaces at the professional, collegiate, schools (K-12), and parks and recreation levels.
Keith Fisher, grounds foreman for the field, was recognized for his efforts.
“2020 has been a trying year for everyone, and sports field managers were forced to adapt and find innovative ways to ensure high-quality field conditions for all athletes,” Kim Heck, CAE, CEO of STMA, said in a prepared statement. “Each of our winners displayed a commitment to excellence while upholding the unwavering commitment of STMA members to field safety and playability.”
Fisher been working with Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools for little over a year. He came from a similar role in the Toms River Regional School District, and prior to that spent time with the New York Yankees, Lakewood BlueClaws and Atlantic City Surf.
“As the grounds foreman for the school district, I’m in charge of all playing fields and general grounds. We have staff at each school that is on site and manages the fields and grounds during the seasons.
“My particular role on Cipperly Field is to manage it to a high-level playing surface, which includes mowing the grass daily, working the dirt and keeping the right amount of moisture so the field maintains its beautiful color,” Fisher said in an interview.
“We cut the grass every day on Cipperly Field during the baseball season and every other day during the growing season. We work on the dirt areas every day during the baseball season, which includes working on the home plate and mound areas, including the bullpens.
“Also, we have to manage the irrigation daily to keep the moisture at the right level. We also maintain the warning track areas so there is a safe transition from the grass to the warning track and the same with the infield dirt to grass.
“In the fall we will aerate, then overseed with a ryegrass blend and then top-dress with sand. As far as winter goes, once the grass stops growing we leave it alone, it needs its rest by now,” Fisher said.
Cipperly Field is primarily used during the season by the East Brunswick Tech Tigers varsity baseball team, but the school hosts other events such as the Greater Middlesex Conference tournament semifinals and finals, and state championship games.
A panel of 14 judges independently scored entries based on playability, appearance of surfaces, use of innovative solutions, effective use of budget, and implementation of a comprehensive agronomic program.
“We won [this award] because of the support from our Facilities Department, Mr. Fran Cap, our administration, the Board of Education, our athletic director Michael Pede, and the employees past and present who helped create the baseline of the current field: Scott Thomas, Fred Broxmeyer, Kevin Mikutsky. Also, the passion of the guys before me, Ray Cipperly, Ryan Radcliffe, Mike Morvay – without those guys, the field isn’t what is.
“My passion to have a safe, beautiful playing field for the athletes who play here is what made Cipperly Field stand above the rest,” Fisher continued. “I am beyond honored to receive this award. It is something I have strived for since I started in the industry in 1998.
“I have always told my kids that if you are going to put your name behind whatever you do, make sure you give it your best and I have pushed for that in every field I worked on. When I was hired last October, I told the superintendent and the board I was going to try and win the STMA Field of the Year and I was able to back that up,” he said.
Winners will receive a plaque, be recognized at the virtual STMA annual Awards Banquet, and be featured in a 2021 issue of SportsField Management, the official monthly publication of STMA.
“It is a tremendous honor for our Ray Cipperly field to be named by Sports Turf Management as field of the year. Our staff, led by Keith Fisher, works tirelessly to maintain the quality playing field Ray created years ago.
“The district is extremely supportive in this adventure by providing the funding to do many of the things Keith needs to do. Keith and his crew are to be commended for this honor,” Michael J. Pede, director of Athletics, Physical Education and Health for Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools, said in an interview.