When fans arrive for a Brisbane Bandits game at AFA Stadium at Holloway Field, they're entertained by the crack of a bat and the roar of the crowd. But before the two-time defending Claxton Shield Champions take the diamond at their home in Newmarket, a unit bands together to present the best green in the league.
At the head of the troops at AFA Stadium at Holloway Field stands Cooper Thomson, son of 1994 Brisbane Bandits Champion and former Team Australia representative, Tony Thomson. Baseball runs deep in the Thomson family, with Cooper and his brother, Jordon, serving as active members of the Windsor Baseball community.
Thomson's work maintaining the ground began long before the 19-year old took over the duties at AFA Stadium at Holloway Field. His first days as a member of the grounds crew began when the Bandits starting playing at the RNA Showgrounds in the 2011/12 Australian Baseball League season. Since then, Thomson's experience has taken the Brisbane native to new heights, figuratively and literally.
Thomson's hours at Holloway Field are a revolving door, especially during the ABL season. Most days, Thomson is the first to arrive and the last to leave. Even more, many can vouche for the days he spent applying diamond dry in the pouring rain or carving patterns in the outfield in the blistering sun; all of his efforts transcended into the near perfection that emerged on gameday. Brisbane Bandits General Manager, Paul Gonzalez, has seen Thomson's impact at the home of the 2017 Australian Baseball League Champions first-hand.
"AFA Stadium at Holloway Field currently sits as the best playing surface in all of Australia and that is a direct reflection of Cooper's commitment and dedication to the game," Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez is one of many that are impressed by Thomson's commitment to his work.
During the 2015 World Baseball Classic Qualifier in Sydney, Thomson met Eric Ogden, formally of Brickman Sportsturf, who was impressed with Thomson's experience. Soon enough, Ogden offered the young gun an opportunity on the grounds crew staff with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. Thomson accepted the role and spent the following season in Sugar Land, Texas, perfecting his craft.
With the conclusion of the 2017 ABL season, Thomson will once again return to the Skeeters' staff in late April for a six-month stint, but this time, he has another opportunity at hand. Currently, Ogden acts as the Field Operations Manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates of Major League Baseball. There is no concrete offer in place as of yet, but after Thomson's responsibilities with the Skeeters come to a close, the ambitious Australian could see an opportunity with the Pirates organisation come to fruition.
Thomson's potential involvement on the biggest stage in the world is a direct reflection of the product he has delivered at AFA Stadium at Holloway Field.
"Individuals that have success like this show they make investments in themselves and Cooper has been rewarded for his efforts," Gonzalez said.
With all of Thomson's recent success, the 19-year old can't master perfection on his own. His staff is among the most committed group of individuals down under.
Steve Dymalla, Joel McInnes, Adam Hindley, Matt Glasson, Jordon Thomson, Jake Ezell, Josh Marriott, Nick Marriott, Dom French, Brandan Bidois, Joel Wilson and Lauchlan Craig complete the grounds crew at AFA Stadium at Holloway Field.
By the final homestand of the 2017 ABL season, Thomson's team perfected the art, performing full sweeps of the infield in between innings; in may ways, taking a major league approach.
"I've learned a lot of things from Steve [Dymalla], and my time at Sugar Land, so I just want to put out the best playing surface that is consistent and predictable for our players," Thomson said.
Consistency is key for success. That said, if you're searching for Cooper Thomson, chances are, you'll find him at AFA Stadium at Holloway Field perfecting the craft he has so wonderfully mastered.