Ray Cipperly Field at Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools’ East Brunswick campus has been named the 2020 Schools and Parks Baseball Field of the Year by the Sports Turf Managers Association, a nonprofit professional organization for men and women who manage sports fields worldwide.
The field serves as the home of East Brunswick’s Tech’s baseball team and has hosted several high-profile events including the Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament semifinals and finals, as well as the GMC Baseball Coaches Association’s Senior All-Star Game and Underclassman Showcase.
“It’s a huge honor,” said East Brunswick Tech athletics director Mike Pede, who previously served as the school’s head baseball coach.
“It means the world to us. I know one of my favorite things is baseball coaches will take a ride here in the spring just to show their kids our field. They’ve said, ‘This is where we want to be at the end of the season. We want to be in the county finals playing on this field.”
The field is named after the late Ray Cipperly. East Brunswick Tech’s former athletics director and baseball coach, Cipperly designed the field and turned it into an award-winning one which garnered the National High School Baseball Coaches Association Diamond of the Year award in 1996.
Cipperly went on to enjoy a distinguished career for 16 years as head groundskeeper for the Somerset Patriots and Trenton Thunder.
His successor as caretaker of East Brunswick Tech’s diamond is Keith Fisher, a head groundskeeper who previously worked for the New York Yankees before the school district hired him as a full-time employee to oversee the grounds at all of the Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools’ campuses, Pede said.
“One of his main responsibilities is to keep the field pristine and in the same condition it was when Ray was here,” Pede said. “When Ray passed away (five years ago), we met as a district and said we have to do whatever it takes to keep the field at the same quality.”
Pede said Fisher takes meticulous care of the diamond and that the school district has made significant investments to maintain its standing, including the addition of a new scoreboard and sound system.
“We are always working on that field,” Pede said. “A lot goes into it behind the scenes that people don’t see.”
A professional association for 2,700 men and women, the Sports Turf Managers Association 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.
A panel of 14 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.
“It’s beyond exciting and beyond well-deserved,” Edison High School head baseball coach and GMC Baseball Coaches Association co-president Vinnie Abene said of East Brunswick Tech receiving national recognition.
“We’ve obviously known about this gem for the past 25 years or longer, and we look forward to playing as many games as possible on it. It’s a privilege and a pleasure to get an opportunity to play on that field. It’s well taken care of. The staff at East Brunswick Tech does an unbelievable job keeping that field in the best shape. They deserve the honor.”
Winners will receive a plaque, be recognized at the virtual Sports Turf Managers Association annual Awards Banquet, and featured in a 2021 issue of SportsField Management, the official monthly publication of Sports Turf Managers Association.
“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,” Sports Turf Managers Association CAE and CEO Kim Heck said.
“Each of our winners displayed a commitment to excellence while upholding the unwavering commitment of (Sports Turf Managers Association) members to field safety and playability.”
The 2020 winners are:
Baseball – Smokies Stadium (Sevierville, Tenn.): Eric Taylor, Head Groundskeeper
Soccer – New York Red Bulls Academy Field (Whippany, N.J.): Zach Holm, CSFM, Manager, RBTF Operations
College and University
Football – Bobby Bowden Field at Florida State University (Tallahasse, Fla.): Chris Denson, CSFM, Athletic Turf Superintendent
Schools and Parks
Baseball – Ray Cipperly Field at Middlesex County Vo-Tech School District (East Brunswick, N.J.): Keith Fisher, Grounds Foreman
Football – Walsh Field at Pace Academy Riverview Sports Complex (Mableton, Ga.): Daniel Prince, Sports Complex Facility Manager