AKRON Every year, the field at Canal Park hosts 70 Akron RubberDucks games, dozens of high school games and other events throughout the year. Keeping the field in good playing condition falls to head groundskeeper Chris Walsh and the efforts of he and his grounds crew were recognized earlier this month by the Ohio Sports Turf Managers Association (OSTMA) at its annual meeting on Dec. 5.
The Canal Park playing surface was named the 2018 Turface Athletics Ohio Field of the Year, marking the first time Canal Park has been honored by the OSTMA.
The award considers playing surfaces from all levels of Ohio sports, including high school, parks and recreational and collegiate. It recognizes an individual and organization for their persistence in maintaining safe and aesthetically pleasing playing surfaces and board members nominate award candidates who are then voted on by the OSTMA members. Turface Athletics is the award's presenting sponsor.
"It's an honor to receive this award. I want to thank the OSTMA board and its members for selecting Canal Park. I couldn't have done it without the help of my assistant James Petrella, my grounds crew, and my turf dog Duke,” Walsh said. “I also want to thank the RubberDucks front office, but most importantly, I couldn't do what I do without the constant support of my wife Chrystie and our son Declan."
Akron RubberDucks general manager Jim Pfander, whose office sits in close proximity to the field at Canal Park and afford him a good view of Walsh and the grounds crew’s work, also sees the grounds crew team work to get the field ready on the many nights during the season when weather conditions dump inches of precipitation on the grass and dirt.
"We are thrilled Chris Walsh, James Petrella and their entire team was recognized with such a much-deserved honor," Pfander said. "They work tirelessly to keep the playing surface in outstanding shape for 70 RubberDucks games, plus 30-40 additional special events such as the Akron Marathon, high school baseball games, charity events, and all those thousands of kids who run the bases and stampede in the outfield during our Sunday Family FUNdays at Canal Park."
The 2019 season will be Walsh's ninth with the RubberDucks organization. He was named the 2016 Eastern League Diamond Pro Sports Field Manager of the Year. Prior to that season, the RubberDucks teamed with the city of Akron to completely renovate Canal Park's field, including drainage and irrigation systems. Walsh oversaw the installation efforts before overseeing the field in a championship-winning season that included Akron's first time hosting the EL All-Star Game.
Those efforts included work on the infield, warning track and other aspects of the playing surface.