Youth sports are not allowed during the current phase of re-opening activities during COVID-19, but that didn’t stop travel baseball teams from playing tournaments on the fields at LeBright and Rolland Starn Parks in Hughson, according to city officials.
City employees repeatedly asked coaches to stop playing, closing the fields and posting signs. But that didn’t work, according to a post on Hughson’s Facebook page.
So the city took a more drastic approach, disking over the baselines of the otherwise perfectly manicured fields.
The city’s post said that the teams playing had traveled from other counties, which had high rates of COVID-19, and the city had to end the improper use of the fields. The post also said that the coaches of the travel teams did not comply when city staff asked them to leave the fields and they were disrespectful.
That left Marley the retriever as the only ball player on the field Friday.
“They had to do what they had to do,” said Coach Eli of Hughson, Marley’s owner who lives near the parks but didn’t want to give his last name. He coaches youth baseball in Hughson and his son is a player.
Eli said one thing that upset him is that the coaches are the ones that prepped the fields for play and the city damaged the fields.
“...City staff will put the infields back into the original condition. The process for restoring the fields is quick and simple and will not delay any play once the order is lifted,” according to their Facebook post.
The Hughson mayor and superintendent of public works could not be reached for comment.
“It’s a Catch-22,” said Eli, “The kids need to get out and play, but we need to follow the county ordinances to keep everyone safe.”
The city’s Facebook post said employees did leave two smaller fields at Le Bright intact so families can use them. Games among people who share a household are acceptable under the current public health orders.
Other adults involved with youth baseball expressed anger on their Facebook posts about the city’s actions to disk the baseball fields.
“So this is the City of Hughson’s response to kids getting out of the house playing a little ball. Wasting tax payers money to go and destroy the nice fields. I’m sure they have this allotted for in their budget!! I’m all up for being safe and responsible but these kids are being punished in my opinion!!,” posted Brian Faria on Facebook, which elicited nearly 100 comments or shares. He is also a youth baseball coach, according to his Facebook profile.
Faria is also recruiting signers for a petition on change.org to re-open youth sports in California, which has more than 7,200 of the goal of 7,500 signatures on July 3.
He did not respond to a request for comment from The Bee.
Last week, the Rainbow Fields baseball and softball complex was shut down under a Stanislaus County cease-and-desist order after travel teams were playing games at the fields north of Modesto. Games are out of compliance with the state order.
This story was produced with financial support from The Stanislaus County Office of Education and the Stanislaus Community Foundation, along with the GroundTruth Project’s Report for America initiative. The Modesto Bee maintains full editorial control of this work.
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