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COMMUNITY PLAYERS WANT FIELD AFTER HOURS…
La Salle County commissioners have moved to make baseball fields at the Martinez Park sports complex in Cotulla more accessible to local players who meet weekly for informal games.
The decision came in the form of a directive instead of a motion by unanimous support from the court Monday, May 8, after a presentation in which a local participant in the volunteer evening games said she believed recreational players had been barred from using the facility.
Alicia Zamudio addressed commissioners Monday with a plea for access to the complex during the hours that fields are not being used by the Babe Ruth League, an organization that she said appeared to have effected a block on all other parties.
“Community softball is open to all,” Zamudio said, “and it has been traditional for decades, but we no longer play because of the Babe Ruth League.”
According to Zamudio, the league has secured a restriction on the sports complex that dampened the spirits of local adults and children who have been playing ball in the evenings for a number of years.
Zamudio acknowledged the need for the league to reserve the ball fields during the hours its participants practice and take part in tournaments, and the hours during which the fields are watered and tended, but asked that others be allowed to use a field between 8 and 10 p.m.
She told commissioners that community players had been told the restriction on the use of ball fields at Martinez Park applied to the entire Babe Ruth League season and that the community players had been blocked from using the park a week before the league season started.
“I’m sure it was well intentioned,” she said of the league reservation, “but it has negative effects. Select teams can’t book the fields, and the schedule prevents community teams from practicing.”
Zamudio described the community players as adults and youths who meet for recreational ball games “after a long work week.”
She also asked that the county review its fee structure for booking a baseball field, noting that the community players have been content to pay $20 an hour for the lights and do not need to use other facilities at the complex. She questioned the court over an apparent rate increase to $150.
“We want to discuss being more lenient,” Zamudio said. “I’m not understanding the price increase. We hope to negotiate that.”
“Are you going to rent the field just to play?” County Judge Leodoro Martinez III asked. “Are you wanting to pay for the lights?”
“I don’t want this to be an ‘us versus them’ thing,” Zamudio said. “We get there at eight, play till ten, and then we leave. Nothing that we do interferes with [the league] schedule.
“During Babe Ruth Season, no one can reserve the field,” Zamudio said.
“There’s no such thing as ‘reserve,’” Commissioner Noel Niavez said.
“There has been no attempt to create a solution,” Zamudio said. “It feels a little bit hostile. We need the lights to see the ball. A hundred and fifty dollars seems like too high a price.”
“I think twenty dollars an hour is cheap,” the county judge said. “I want the fields to be used. We do have safety concerns over the next morning. I want the fields to be safe for the kids the next morning. We are saying you can rent them if there is no conflict.”
Commissioners agreed they are likely to return at a later date to review the fee schedule for use of the sports complex.