Park district plays ball; will reconfigure field for Little League

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | It's 75 feet from home plate to first base at Mattituck Park District's Peconic Bay Boulevard field, 15 feet too long for Little League games.

The Mattituck-Cutchogue Little League will be able to use the field at the Mattituck Yacht Club property on Peconic Bay Boulevard this season, but that’s only after the Mattituck Park District agreed to change the field’s dimensions.

Still, Little League organizers Michael and Kathy Ryan say they’re dismayed they were never consulted when the park district initially lengthened the field’s baselines from 60 to 75 feet, more than 18 months ago. Little League baseball can only be played on fields with a base path length of 60 feet. The more elite travel teams play on fields with 75 feet between bases.

At the park district’s March 8 meeting, board members said they did not vote on the field changes in the fall of 2010 because the work was donated. They added that the firm involved agreed to change the field dimensions to create a multi-use field if the need arose within the community. But they said they didn’t hear from the Little League at the time that there was a problem with the field.

“It was my assumption that the baseball teams had worked it out,” said park district commissioner Charles Zaloom.

“At the time, we thought there were enough 60-foot fields in the town,” board president Nick Deegan added.

After Little League organizers saw the field had been changed in 2010, the Ryans said, they applied instead to use only the park district’s field on Bay Avenue in Mattituck and the field at the New Suffolk School. This year, they said, they don’t want to use New Suffolk’s field because it’s not well maintained.

The board ultimately voted 2-1 to spend up to $5,000 to re-cut the Peconic Bay Boulevard field. Mr. Deegan voted against the measure, saying he wasn’t convinced there weren’t enough other fields for the Little League’s use.

Members of the Mattituck Soccer Club also have a beef with the district over some new policies, including charging out-of-district team members $5 per season toward the cost of electricity to light the Aldrich Lane soccer fields, and a new requirement that the club provide the park district with rosters of team members.

The commissioners said the soccer club cannot use the fields until they provide the rosters, but club members told the board at Thursday’s meeting that doing so would be a violation of their privacy policies.

The commissioners said both the district’s insurance provider and the Mattituck-Cutchogue School District, which owns a large portion of the Aldrich Lane fields, want the rosters. They added that the rosters could be placed in a locked safe and the park district can adopt a privacy policy to ensure that they are accessed only if a player is hurt and an insurance claim is filed.

The school still has not finalized a new lease allowing the park district to use its section of the field and a cease and desist order prohibiting the park district’s use of the fields remains in effect. Without those rosters, the commissioners said, the soccer club will not be able to play.

In another matter, commissioner Gerard Goehringer said he would like to install security cameras on Aldrich Lane, because soccer club members complained that teams without permission to use the fields have been using the soccer club’s goals on weekends.

“We need to create a security force for that situation,” he said.

Mr. Deegan seemed less convinced.

“We’re not talking about kids breaking things. We’re talking about kids who want to play ball,” he said.

Soccer club member Cliff Batuello said security might be overkill. He said he often stops to talk with Latino soccer teams playing on the fields without permission. Since he speaks Spanish, he said he was able to let the players know they need to insure their players and get permission from the park district before they play.

“All it required was a conversation,” he said.

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