Caught in the middle

Published 11:59 pm Wednesday, September 30, 2009

County recreation board chairman Wayne Bush said Wednesday the city recently informed the board it must change the way it conducts its baseball and softball draft, if county teams wish to play games at Johnson Park next spring.

In previous years, the county’s South Alabama Babe Ruth League (which includes Cal Ripken baseball and Babe Ruth softball) has divided teams along community and school district lines — for example, all of the players who live near Pleasant Home School would play on a Pleasant Home team. The city is instead requesting the league holds a “common draft” that would include players who attend Andalusia schools.

“The common draft would mean every player goes into the same pool, whether they go to school in the city or in the county, and then the coaches pick their teams,” Bush said. “It would probably keep all of the kids from one school from playing on the same team.”

In a memo sent to Bush and other county recreation board members, Andalusia Leisure Services Director Dwight Mikel said the change is necessary because planned improvements at Johnson Park will require a reduction in facilities, during the construction time.

Concerning the common draft, Mikel wrote, “I will do everything in my power to see that all of these children are treated in a fair and equitable manner.”

Bush said a common draft would be difficult for families who live in the county. Previously school-based teams would practice at nearby neighborhood facilities or school fields. Bush said “at least 100 kids” would have to drop out of the county league if the common draft went into effect and all practices had to be held in Andalusia.

Wednesday, the county commission and county engineer agreed to assist Bush in determining if a centralized facility could be constructed for the county league teams before spring.

“All we’d need is four fields and lights,” he said. “If we had to bring in portable buildings for restrooms and concessions, that would be okay.”

Bush said the county could possibly build the fields on existing property it owns behind the Kiwanis Building, or pursue other possible locations. The commission granted him the authority to begin raising funds for the project.

“I’ll be talking to some folks and requesting assistance to move our plan along and see if we can make it happen by spring,” Bush said.

Bush said he does not know the deadline for the county to decide what it wants to do, but the common draft is a definite possibility.

“If we have no other option, we’ll have to go to the common draft and risk losing those kids who can’t play anymore,” he said.