Yuma Little League in center of another controversy
There are some things in life that shouldn't be controversial.
Apple pie, for instance. Delicious. Maybe not the best pie, but should be in everybody's top three.
Also, cute puppies. Who doesn't love puppies? No controversy there.
And, of course, Little League. How on Earth could Little League ever be controversial?
Saturday, Yuma Little League begins its second season after a ridiculously successful freshman campaign. But in a league where nothing comes easy, then why should opening day?
(Note: Here's some proof of the controversial nature of Little League - I have to write a disclaimer about Little League. I don't know any of the people I'm about to menton personally. I don't like or dislike any of them on a personal level. I'm not out to get anyone. We covered YLL in the playoffs last year and will do the same, if and when they qualify, this year. And we're looking forward to it.)
Little League's opening day was scheduled at the same time as the La Raza Car and Bike Club "Cruising to the Valley of the Sun XII." Both events were scheduled at Joe Henry Park - the car show in the park, where it's been for the past five years, and the Little League on the baseball fields. Late Monday, an agreement was reached to move the games to Yuma Catholic.
The opening day ceremonies start with a pancake breakfast at Desert Sun Stadium from 6-8:15 a.m., then the on-field presentation at 8:30 a.m. Games start at YC at 11 a.m. The car show starts with a parade at Joe Henry at 8 a.m.
Donna West, Yuma Little League president, said the parents were concerned about safety from cars. She said that the league board was going to "let it go" and play Saturday but lobbied for the change to YC Monday after the parents made it clear they were uncomfortable.
Fair or not, West said, some of the qualms stemmed not just from auto safety.
"Some of the parents were concerned because of the type of group they're saying (the car show) is," West said. "I don't know any of them, but obviously bikes, low-riders, what-not are perceived not in the best light. ... Some of them did not want them around, per se, that type of group."
But according to Debbie Wendt, Yuma Parks and Recreation recreation superintendent, there haven't been any issues with the car show, and law enforcement officials will be there en masse - as invited by the club.
Seems like the two groups could have coexisted. I'm not too familiar with the layout of Joe Henry, but if a recreation superintendent says the two groups can share the space - actually a common practice, according to Wendt - then who am I to argue.
For the three years I was in Texas, the Rally of Texas - one of the largest motorcycle rallies in the country - was held in Austin on the same weekend 40 or so high school softball teams were in town for the state championships. Austin is slightly bigger than Joe Henry, but still there were no problems. Sometimes things get a bad rap for no reason. I'm not familiar exactly with this car show, but I do know bikers/gearheads are one of those - and this car show doesn't feature bikes, according to Wendt. Plus, the proceeds from the car show are going to charity.
Even Little League's birth (or rebirth) here in town was tricky, with some bad blood somehow forming between the fledgling league and Yuma Boys Baseball League, which has been around for seven decades.
West said she's not sure why the league is such a controversy magnet.
"I haven't seen anything bad come from it. I've seen nothing but good. I can't tell you why all the controversy, but it seems like every time we turn around, it's something. I wish I had an answer."
It's cliche as heck, but everyone always says "It's about the children." That's what Little League, YBBL and any youth activity is supposed to be about - youth.
From its start - rightfully or wrongfully so - YLL has been defensive. West said "there are still people who do not want us here," and has said in previous interviews that the city hasn't always treated the league fair, a contention Wendt disagrees with. When coming from a defensive position, it's easy to forget the facts. Here are the facts about Yuma Little League.
(1) It provides a great alternative to YBBL for those parents who wish for a slightly more competitive format.
(2) It gives children a chance to travel and play baseball without having to be on a traveling team.
(3) If one season is any indication, it is really competitive on a statewide level.
In light of those facts, it shouldn't matter if opening day was on a back field at the Ray Kroc Baseball Complex in the middle of Night Ranger's performance at Midnight at the Oasis. The league is a success in Yuma.
(4) Now the league is going to bring an influx of cash to the community in the summer, when it hosts the 9-10-year-old district and state tournaments.
With all that it has going for it, the only way it's going to be stopped is self-destruction.