Chad Laurie, the head groundskeeper for the Buffalo Biosns, was named the International League's Sports Turf Manager of the Year. He is the first Bisons associate to be given the honor in the award’s 25-year existence.
Laurie, who joined the Bisons staff for the 2012 season, was selected for the award by the field managers and pitching coaches around the IL. This marks just the fourth time that a groundskeepr from the IL North Division has won the award. John Stewart in Syracuse won last year while Ottawa's Al Dungey won in both 1994 and 1995.
"This is a tremendous honor for Chad and a fitting award for all the dedication, hard work and long hours he and his staff puts into each season," said Bison's general manager Mike Buczkowski in a release. "It’s no secret the challenges we face with our constantly-changing weather in Western New York, but Chad always has our field looking great and in optimal playing condition."
Laurie, a native of Louisville and a graduate of the University of Kentucky, had unique challenges this season as the region had a particularly hot and dry summer making it most difficult at times to keep the infield dirt playable.
"We wet the dirt so that the players’ cleats will get into it," Laurie explained over the summer as the Bisons had just one postponed game in 2016. "We want it firm, but we want it soft enough like a cork board where their cleats can get into it and it’s stable. If it’s at the right moisture, the cleat will go in and come out. If it’s too dry when they push their cleats into it and then move their foot or push off, it will take a little chunk out. We’re looking for that cork board feel.
"If you only have the top layer wet, it dries out faster and if you look for it through a game, at the beginning of a game it’s wetter and then it will dry out a little and once the sun goes down it will actually start to wet itself again if you have that moisture deep because the top will dry out and there’s this thing called capillary -- it will take moisture from the base and bring it to the top. There’s a lot of feel to it. I’ve been doing this for 15 years now so you kinda get a feel for it."