CLEARWATER, FL (WFLA) – When it comes to taking care of Major League Baseball fields, the awards that cover the walls in his office tell you nobody does it better than Opie Cheek.
“When you walk in that’s the first thing everybody sees is your field and we all take pride in it. From the littlest thing on the field, picking up that little paper on the field driving you nuts. Sun Flower seeds on the field drives you crazy,” said Cheek who is the field supervisor for the Philadelphia Phillies and Clearwater Thrashers.
Cheek has the distinction of being the 12-year reigning champion of the “Best Field in the Florida State League” and he has won the national award for the Best Single “A” field in the United States twice.
“It’s humbling. It feels good,” he said, as the as the Phillies started to take the field for Spring Training practice.
All of those awards garnered the attention of the Korea Baseball Organization half a world away. The league sent six representatives to Clearwater to learn how to properly prepare a baseball field.
“First I was a little intimidated when they showed up. I admit I was a nervous wreck. How am I going to teach these guys that don’t speak English… But they are great guys and they understand what I’m saying but they don’t speak it back,” Cheek said as he watched his Korean crew members roll out the batting cage and rake the field for the Phillies.
The Korea Baseball Organization visit was such a success that they are talking about bringing other Asian nations to learn from the Philadelphia Phillies grounds keeper.
“They are going to try to do this every year now and next year is suppose to be Taiwan and Japan coming,” Cheek said.