Baseball season is still months away but already the competition is heating up in Malverne between two youth leagues who are battling for use of the village’s fields.
Tensions rose at Wednesday's village board meeting, when Joe Ariola, president of Malverne Little League, asked why his permit application for Harris and Whelan Fields for the 2012 seasons had not yet been approved.
The league will kick off its 61st season on March 31 and similar to previous years, Ariola had requested use of the fields every day from March 1 to Nov. 30, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. But this was apparently too broad for the village board, which responded with a letter asking for a more specific schedule of dates and times when the league needs the fields, information that Ariola said is “impossible” to deliver at this time.
“We also have, as you know, another permit that was submitted, so we need to sit down and discuss this,” Mayor Patricia Norris McDonald told Ariola during the meeting. The other application came from the Malverne Mud Hens, a travel team formed in May 2010, as their Web site states, “when a few fathers from the Malverne Little League wanted their sons to play more competitive baseball.”
They started with a U11 (11 and under) team and have since added a U10, U12, U8 and U13 teams too, all of which require players to try out and are open to non-Malverne residents too – points that Ariola and Jim McDaniels, Malverne Little League’s vice president, made to the board.
Unlike the Mud Hens, “Every child that registers for Malverne Little League in Malverne gets to play,” as dictated by the league’s charter, McDaniels said.
With approximately 450 kids in its baseball and softball programs, the Malverne Little League uses the fields non-stop for games and practices on weekends and weeknights, and also needs to schedule open slots for make-up games. He suggested, “The village should take the position that Little League is the sole baseball program that the village recognizes.”
However, this does not appear to be the stance the board will be taking on the matter, choosing instead to broker some collaboration between the two leagues.
“We should be able to work something out,” Mayor McDonald said. “Yes, you should be getting the majority of time for fields, but they should also be getting some time also.”
“You’re basically saying that...no one else in the village of Malverne can use those fields,” Village Attorney James Frankie told the Little League leaders.
In the past, McDaniels said Little League has accommodated other groups such as Our Lady of Lourdes, Malverne Civic and eventually, the Mud Hens, who needed to the use the fields. However, Frankie said these organizations should be going through the village, which owns and maintains the fields, and not Little League, to get access.
“It wasn’t easy working with you and the other individuals,” Mayor McDonald said of the back-and-forth that occurred last year when the Mud Hens requested dates from Little League. “There are personality issues here and that’s what we’re trying to avoid this year.”
McDaniels denied any personality conflicts, saying, “I love those guys. I think what they’re doing is a great thing…I don’t want this to be Malverne Little vs. Mud Hens," calling it instead, a timing issue.
Although his children no longer play in the league, McDaniels is in his 16th year volunteering for Malverne Little League and calls it an “institution,” one that he hopes will continue to thrive in the village. In the last few years, he has seen the league invest $100,000 into improving the fields, and it is now looking to spend another $35K at Harris, installing a new concession stand and making other improvements.
“This is the first step in Little League losing more and more field time because an organization that has only five, six or seven Malverne children on it could come in,” Ariola said.
While no one from the Mud Hens was present at Wednesday’s meeting, after reviewing footage of it, Kenneth Rung, the Mud Hens’ president, issued a statement to Patch, saying the club was “dismayed and disappointed by the actions and comments made by Malverne Little League.”
“We believe that the issue of field use was not properly portrayed by Malverne Little League and we applaud loudly the response by the Mayor and her board members to such accusations,” read the statement. “We, as the Board informed all the residents last night, have never asked to take priority over any Little League game or event.… zero events have been impacted by the Mud Hens request for field use. Yet we continually have been met by resistance and dragging of feet. “
They thanked the board for standing up for all “organizations and tax paying residents of this town who reserve the right for use of these fields.”
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