The Threshers would like to congratulate field supervisor Opie Cheek and the entire Clearwater Threshers grounds crew for their recognition recently by the Florida State League as the best in the league in the 2013 Sports Turf Crew Awards.
Clearwater won the FSL Best Overall Award for the tenth consecutive season, as they have every season since moving into Bright House Field. Cheek was named FSL Sports Turf Manager of the Year for the tenth straight season as well, continuing a remarkable and peerless run.
"We are honored and proud that the FSL has recognized the Threshers, Opie and our grounds crew for a tenth straight season," Threshers General Manager John Timberlake said. "We believe that Bright House Field ranks among the top facilities in Minor League Baseball, and credit for that goes to the hard-working staff who help it reach its potential."
Cheek was born in Chicago in 1964, and split his childhood between there and Tennessee. He began working with the Clearwater Phillies in 1987 after running a successful lawn-care business with his brother Ron (a member of the Threshers ground crew) since 1982. Opie took over the lead with keeping the grounds in 1989, and has been a fixture with the team ever since. He lives with his wife of nearly 19 years Cheryl, his daughter Jordan and his son Evan.
In his 26 years with Clearwater, Opie's become one of the most recognizable faces around the ballpark. The Threshers gave away an Opie Cheek Bobblehead in 2005, complete with a rake in his hand. In addition to his numerous FSL awards, Cheek is also a two-time winner of the Class A Sports Turf Manager of the Year award from the Sports Turf Managers Association.
Besides the normal wear and tear associated with a minor league baseball season, Opie and the grounds crew faced numerous challenges in 2013, including the Big East Baseball Tournament and heavy rains throughout the summer. Despite that, the Threshers rarely lost a game to weather at home, and credit for that is due to Opie and the gang.
Opie especially wanted to recognize his coworkers on the grounds crew for the success they've had in maintaining the field. "A great field is the result of a team effort," Cheek said, "and I'm lucky to have a terrific group of people working with me to make this field as good as it is."