By Ed Townsend
LIBERTY August 13, 2004 Former Liberty resident Cindy Unger is presently in Athens, Greece working as the baseball training site coordinator for the 2004 Olympic Summer Games, which begin today.
She will be spending a total of six weeks in Greece helping to care for the baseball and softball fields that will be used for the Olympics.
Unger, 44, graduated from Liberty Central High School in 1976 and received a Presidential appointment to the United States Air Force Academy. While attending the academy, Cindy made the decision that military life was not her cup of tea. So she resigned to attend pharmacy school at St. Johns University in New York City and later transferred to the University of South Carolina.
Her parents, Larry and Frieda Unger, make their home in the Town of Liberty. Larry spent 23 years in the Air Force and retired as a Chief Master Sgt.
Cindy left pharmacy school and moved to West Palm Beach, Florida. At the age of 23, she took a job in the pharmacy at Delray Community Hospital and settled into what she hoped would be a long career in health care.
But less than a year later, she was laid off from the hospital. While out of work, she looked at various employment opportunities before taking a job tending the grounds at the Wellington Golf Club.
This was not her first attempt at this type of work. The first time Cindy went to work as a groundskeeper, she was an incoming college freshman charged with tending the greens and fairways of the Town of Fallsburgs Tarry Brae and Lochmor Golf Courses.
In the years after attending pharmacy school and being laid off from Delray Community Hospital, Cindy went to several different colleges. She majored in grounds keeping, because as she says today, more than two decades later, she still enjoys watching the grass grow.
I just like being outside and being with nature and not being restricted, she said in a recent interview. Its kind of nurturing to get things to grow.
Unger is presently the grounds superintendent for Palm Beach Gardens, where she has helped oversee the citys landscaping and irrigation and the care of its parks and public grounds.
The citys got a lot of construction going on, said Unger, a Palm Beach Gardens resident. Ive been involved in a lot of tree location since Ive been here, which has been brand new to me. But thats kind of exciting, to take a 100-year-old oak tree and move it to another location and have it live. My job is not really field-specific. Its more green-specific.
Prior to her work with Palm Beach Gardens, Unger spent more than a decade caring for golf courses and baseball fields throughout the state of Florida.
From the Wellington Golf Club she took a job caring for the grounds at the West Palm Beach Country Club. Later, she served as a groundskeeper at the old Municipal Stadium in West Palm Beach before moving on to the role of turf supervisor at Disneys Wide World of Sports Complex.
She left that job after three years to move back to Palm Beach County, where she took over as head groundskeeper at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, which served as the spring training facilities for the St. Louis Cardinals and later the Montreal Expos. Here she was introduced to the rigors of baseball field maintenance.
Up until the Roger Dean job, my work was all real turf-specific, but at Roger Dean I got a lot more involved with the clay surface, which is a big part of baseball, Cindy said.
Unger enjoyed her experiences with baseball. But after three years, she grew tired of working the long 14-hour days and even longer weekends.
I was at a point at Roger Dean where I needed some balance, she said. You really have to be a workaholic when youre involved, especially with the spring training facilities.
With Palm Beach Gardens, her schedule is a little more relaxed and far more flexible.
Unger was recommended for the position at the Olympics by former Municipal Stadium manager and current Major League Baseball field consultant Murray Cook.
Im excited about being able to go to Athens; but I think more than anything, Im excited to be a part of the Olympics, Unger commented. I also feel kind of honored that Ill be over there and just be part of an event of that magnitude.