Little League teams want place to play in Alton Park

Little League teams want place to play in Alton Park

April 28th, 2011 by Yolanda Putman in News

Dakota Leffew pitches as he practices baseball with his team at a grass-covered field at the closed Alton Park Recreation Center on Central Avenue in Alton Park. Staff photo by John Rawlston/Chattanooga Times Free Press


What: Meeting on Alton Park ball fields

When: Today at noon

Where: Villages at Alton Park office, 301 Water St.

Alton Park has a dozen Little League baseball teams but no ballfield, according to Larry High, owner of Bear's Barbershop in Alton Park.

"We're just tired of being neglected, not getting what our kids need," said High, coach of the Bear's Cubs Little League baseball team. The Cubs are among 12 Little League teams comprising more than 140 students in the inner-city community.

High and other community organizers will host a meeting today about the need for usable Alton Park ballfields.

High said he's speaking about the lack of facilities now because baseball season for the league starts with a jamboree on Thursday at Warner Park, but youth have had limited places to practice.

"You could see the condition of the field," High said after practice on the ballfield near the old 45th Street recreation center. "The grass is 6 to 8 inches high. There's no dirt in the infield. We cannot train our children."

A city administrator said the city stopped maintaining that field after the recreation center was closed nearly 20 years ago because of environmental concerns. The city has prepared three other practice fields in Alton Park, and the league will start its season on the new field at Warner Park today, said Greta Hayes, assistant director for Chattanooga Parks and Recreation.

"Although it's primarily an inner-city league, we didn't want the kids to just think they could only play on the older fields," Hayes said. "Taxpayer dollars helped build Warner Park, and we wanted our kids to play there also."

High acknowledged that the Alton Park teams have been invited to play at Warner Park, but he said the young players still need a field within walking distance of their homes.

Hayes said in a perfect world everybody would have a baseball field in their own backyard that is convenient. But the city is trying to provide transportation for the kids and making sure that some fields in Alton Park are accessible for practice, she said.

She said the city maintains the ballfields near Howard School of Academics and Technology, behind the Emma Wheeler Homes housing development site on Edinburg Drive and the South Chattanooga recreation center.

High said he has tried to practice with his teams on those fields.

"Those aren't playable," he said. "We've been on all of them. The grass is grown up, and there's no dirt in the infield."

High said the only one that's usable is the field near the South Chattanooga recreation center, and that field already has five or six teams practicing on it.

"We get the worse of everything, and the children see it," he said. "We've been pushing for a ballfield for the last three years."