The Late Gary Vanden Berg Honored at Miller Park

This January, the Major League Baseball Groundskeepers elected the late Gary Vanden Berg into the MLB Groundskeepers Hall of Fame.

Gary was a member of the Milwaukee Brewers organization, serving 10 years as the assistant and over 21 years as Heads Groundskeeper. Gary led the grounds team at County Stadium and prepared the Miller Park field for games and events, most notably the 2002 All-Star Game and the Brewers playoff appearances in 2008 and 2011.

After a year-long battle with cancer, Gary passed away on October 10, 2011. Gary was well respected for the work he did the turf grass industry, but more importantly for the person that he was. To honor this, the MLB Groundskeepers named the Hall of Fame Trophy after Gary upon its inception in 2011.

Through Gary’s 31 years as a groundskeeper, he maintained a strong family life. Their commitment to each other  and Gary’s commitment to the turf grass industry will live on through those who are here today–his wife Lauri, their sons John and Joel, daughters-in-law Lindsey and Betsy and grandchildren Brooke, Cole, Kate and Claire, along with Michael Boettcher, Brewers Director of Grounds and the Miller Park Grounds Crew.

Vanden Bergs

Gary joins previous inductees Emil Bossard (Indians), George Toma (Royals), Joe Mooney (Red Sox), Dick Ericson (Twins), Harry Gill (Brewers), Pete Flynn (Mets) and Pat Santarone (Orioles) in the Grounds Keepper Hall of Fame.

The late Gary Vanden Berg has been elected into the MLB Groundskeepers Hall of Fame. Photo by Tom Lynn

The late Gary Vanden Berg was elected into the MLB Groundskeepers Hall of Fame.
Photo by Tom Lynn

Prior to his work in Milwaukee, Vanden Berg got his start in the turf grass industry by working on golf courses where he grew up in Oakfield, Wisconsin.

In his time as an assistant and head groundskeeper at County Stadium, Vanden Berg not only had to produce a quality field for the game of baseball, but also for football.  The Green Bay Packers played select home games at County Stadium through 1994.  In addition to Brewers and Packers games, the field endured other events including concerts, measurable snowfall during the season, and tractor pulls, to name a few.

Vanden Berg at County Stadium

Vanden Berg at County Stadium.

When the Brewers moved from County Stadium to Miller Park, Vanden Berg made the move with the team, tackling the challenge of managing grass in a retractable roof stadium and its imposing shade patterns.

Vanden Berg will forever be remembered for the internship program that he established in Milwaukee for college students aspiring to become sports turf managers.  Students from all over the nation sent their resumes in, hoping to get a spot on the Brewers Grounds Staff every year due to the great experience they were able to receive under Vanden Berg.  The national STMA recognized the importance of his internship program, and established the Gary Vanden Berg Internship Grant for students seeking internships that may not have otherwise been able to afford it.

To be considered for induction to the Major League Baseball Groundskeepers Hall of Fame, a person must have ceased employment in the profession for at least five years, and have made a significant contribution to groundskeeping and/or the sports turf industry at the Major League level. An individual’s impact on the community is also considered.  Nominees are submitted to the MLB Groundskeepers Association for a vote. Each team has one vote; a nominee must receive must receive 75% of the vote of all active association members.

Gary Vanden Berg (center) with Michael Boettcher (right) in 2010.

Gary Vanden Berg (center) with Michael Boettcher (right) in 2010.

 

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