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Village Board Caught in Battle for Malverne Baseball Fields

Village leaders say Malverne Little League needs to give some field time to Malverne Mud Hens travel teams.

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.”

Stay with Patch for more news on this issue.

sally January 05, 2012 at 11:40 PM
My question is, beside the field use, what are Ariola and McDaniels afraid of? I have driven past Harris/Whelan/Malverne High School during prime baseball time, and see the fields EMPTY. So personally I see no need for MLL to hold the fields hostage. What gives?
justired January 06, 2012 at 12:39 AM
because they think they can!!
CS January 06, 2012 at 01:27 AM
the mayor hit the nail on the head.....its one 'group' against the other guys they dont like. its been going on for years. the kids could have been champions one year BUT since one coach wouldnt admit another kid was better than his.....he didnt make the team.
Jack Tulley January 06, 2012 at 02:30 PM
This is not a new issue and while I understand the need to accomodate other groups, it should not be at the detriment of our town league. When my son played their was a team that was formed for the same reason, to be more competative. You had try out for it and a good portion of players were not from Malverne. What nobody mentioned is that it is costly to join and play in. They charge hundreds of dollars for entrance fees and uniforms as well as special trainers and coaches. Malverne Little league is for all kids and the fees are always kept as low as possible. In our case we lost prime field time because the coach of the team knew the scheduling manager for the County league and gave it to the new team. At the time our own League President said nothing and did not challege it. The reason being, his son was on the new team and was also a coach. I called him out on it at a game and I caused quite a commotion as a result at the next League meeting. I do agree that we should accomodate such teams but their should be several issues addressed. One is that priority goes to MLL in the scheduling of games. Two the majority of the team players should be from Malverne, if they are from say, Garden City, or Valley Stream then tell them to go in those towns and play. Third, If this is a money making league then Malverne should charge them to use and maintenance of the fields and not have it be at the expense of the town and Maverne Little league that now do all that work.
justired January 06, 2012 at 05:21 PM
@jack My kid is from lynbrook and played last summer in MLL, so your answer ?
Tara Conry (Editor) January 06, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Justired - I was told the Malverne Little League's charter includes a portion of Lynbrook.
Todd Hundley January 06, 2012 at 07:05 PM
@justired, I'm not sure how old your child is, but do you know when they get older (presumably they are not 9-16), and if they're good enough to make the Malverne tournament team (at the choice of coaches), they'll need a special written allowance from the village of Lynbrook in order to play in that District tournament? Even if your child has played in the Malverne Little League since tee-ball, it is a rule. I've seen it happen all too often, especially at the "Junior" and "senior" level, with young men who come from town's who couldn't field a "junior" or "senior" level team. Their respective little league's refused to issue an allowance, therefore, the child could not play in that tournament. Why is it that those teams consist of a handful of Malverne kids, yet predominantly made up of out of towners (I do not know the actual numbers), and they can't go to Greis Park (Lynbrook), or Fireman's Field (Valley Stream) or Rath Park (Franklin Square), or Lister/Barasch Park (RVC) in order to practice? Something doesn't seem right. The size and availability of Malverne's field's pale in comparison to those of larger neighboring villages with ample field space.
Todd Hundley January 06, 2012 at 07:11 PM
That being said, there should be some sort of agreement between the Malverne Little League & the Mud Hens, with the Mud Hens understanding that the MLL takes precedence over field availability. The Malverne Little League is a village institution, and those involved take pride in it, knowing that it all belongs to them. You see that as you visit any of the village's merchants who have the team championship trophies, or team photos dating back YEARS. With the only connection to Malverne being in name, and a handful of players, will the Mud Hens exhibit that sense of pride, that contributes to keeping Malverne beautiful? The South Shore Rebels - which is also made up of kids from all over- don't seem to mind the shared field time, and they've been around a lot longer.
Baseball Mom January 06, 2012 at 07:22 PM
I am a long time Little League and travel baseball mother and I am very knowledgeable about both. Malverne Little League should have priority over the Malverne fields during their prime spring season, however, I do believe there is room to share the fields with other organizations. During the early Summer there is a tournament season and Malverne Little League’s Summer Season. Tournament games are played on fields located throughout the District in which the Little League plays. Most tournament games are played in the evening on the weekdays and rarely, if any, are played on the weekend. Malverne Little League hosts tournament games on Malverne fields between teams from outside towns. Yes, there are games that are played on Malverne fields that do not involve one Malverne resident. I think that is okay as long as the Village board is aware and the proper insurance from these teams are filed with the Village. The fields should be used and not empty. Malverne Little League’s Summer season consist of games at Malverne fields and at fields in other towns. These games are also only played during the week and practices are rarely held for these teams. This leaves the fields empty on the weekend during the Summer. My husband always said an empty baseball field on a Summer weekend is a sorry sight. The Malverne Little League’s fall season also consists of games at Malverne fields and at fields in other towns. These games are played primarily on the weekends.
Baseball Mom January 06, 2012 at 07:22 PM
There is also a team that goes to Cooperstown every year. The team is assembled once a year to participate in a weeklong tournament in Cooperstown. This is a great experience for the kids. The organization scouts players in Malverne and in other towns and selects players to tryout for the team. The tryouts are held on a Malverne field. It is possible that Malverne Little League players can get cut from this team but it is highly unlikely since Malverne Little League allows the team to practice on Malverne fields every day for about a month and a half. The team consists of Malverne residents and other players from Lynbrook, Valley Stream and other towns. Does this organization submit an application for permits? I do not have a problem with this team using the fields but why aren’t they scrutinized like the travel teams.
Baseball Mom January 06, 2012 at 07:23 PM
Then comes travel. Travel baseball is much different than Little League. It is like comparing apples and oranges. Travel baseball is for those players that have more talent and a bigger desire to compete. It is only fair that these players have an outlet to participate in a higher level of competition. Many players participate in both. Mr. McDaniels says 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. That is Little League. Those are the rules. Playing time is not equal on travel teams. Everyone who is familiar with travel baseball knows this. Little League is a great institution and is desperately needed in every community but it is nothing like travel ball. Since Malverne is small I am sure it is difficult to assemble a competitive travel team from Malverne residents alone. Some might have the talent to play but are involved in other sports and cannot commit to a year long travel program. It is not fair to the committed competitive players to accept players that do not have the ability or desire to play travel ball. Putting a player that has a lesser ability or the lack of focus to play travel ball also puts them in more danger of getting hurt.
Baseball Mom January 06, 2012 at 07:23 PM
Since no Summer Little League games or tournament games are played on the weekend, travel teams should be allowed to play on these fields. In the fall the travel teams can play on the fields when the other team is at an away game. Most of the travel games on the weekend are doubleheaders that last roughly 4 hours total. I do not think that 4 hours on the weekend is too much to ask. I believe that Little League and travel teams can co-exist to benefit both Little League and travel teams. The bottom line is the fields should be used if Malverne Little League is not using them. Also, does anyone know if Whelan Field is indeed owned by the Village of Malverne. I had heard a rumor that it is owned by Nassau County and leased to the Village. If anyone knows I would love to know the answer.
Jack Tulley January 06, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Malverne usually allows kids to play if they are from the Malverne community, which includes, Lakeview, and parts of Lynbrook, but as they get into the older divisions and in tournament play you can only be from Mlaverne. That is not a MLL rule but a Naussau county district baseball rule. I also said "a majority of the team" not the whole team should be from Malverne.
Todd Hundley January 06, 2012 at 07:43 PM
Agreed with Baseball Mom. There needs to be an accordance between both parties, with the Mud Hens realizing they're taking a back seat to field usage, and that in Malverne, they'll have to take what is left over in the availability department. Being a former umpire, grounds crew member, and Little League player, there is a lot of availability, and the Mayor & board cannot expect Mr. McDaniels to provide exact dates of available field usage. That has to be a week by week, or month by month discussion, in my opinion.
Baseball Mom January 06, 2012 at 08:42 PM
@Todd: Completely agree that there should be some sort of agreement between the MLL and the MH, but unfortunately the MLL exhibits resistance. Contrary to your belief, the name of the team is NOT the only connection to Malverne. There are a many more than a “handful” of players on the Mud Hens from Malverne, most of all either do or have played for the MLL. These kids exhibit great skill and talent and they need to be challenged. Challenge leads to success. The point that everyone seems to be missing here is IT IS ABOUT THE KIDS, not the parents. The Mayor said it is a “personality” issue. If that is the case, the only ones getting hurt here are the kids, which is so unfair. All they want to do is eat, sleep and play baseball. To answer your question, you should check out the Mud Hens website. I did. They have a “Mud Hens in the Community” page where they have pictures of events, food drives and fundraisers they have done in the Village. They also have visits to the elderly at the assisted living home. To me, they definitely exhibit a sense of pride and would make any resident proud. Check it out.
Baseball Mom January 06, 2012 at 08:46 PM
@ Jack: their website says "Not-For-Profit".
sally January 06, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Malverne Mudhens should ask the High School for a permit, the high school practices are usually finished by 6 pm, never used in the summer, and in the fall they aren't used either. What I know of the Mudhens probably 10 of the 12 kids are all Malverne kids and the younger age groups probably 12 out of 12.
justired January 07, 2012 at 01:07 AM
@ baseball mom I agree with you on all accounts @everyone, THE MLL do not OWN the fields, so they do not have the say in who uses the field, end of story , its about a bunch of grown men putting aside their egos and agreeing on a fair use of the fields....ITS ALL ABOUT THE KIDS, PEOPLE THEY JUST WANT TO PLAY BALL FOR GOD SAKES!!!!!!
Todd Hundley January 07, 2012 at 08:31 PM
@baseball mom, @ justired, Why is it that your Mud Hens web page is largely password protected? Shouldn't the taxpayers have the ability to view the Mud Hens calendar and schedule? I shouldn't have to contact the webmaster to view this information. I'd like to also be able to see a detailed roster of all teams and the towns where these young men are from. You know that in order to play in the Little League every child has to be a resident of the village of Malverne, or on the near borders. No has seemed to answer my question about field availability in RVC, Lynbrook, Valley Stream, Franklin Square, West Hempstead, and Garden City. Please advise, as I'm interested in what other Little Leagues had to say on this matter, if anything. Also, isn't contacting the school district a great alternate option for field availability?
justired January 07, 2012 at 09:56 PM
@Todd Really Dude!!!
Baseball Mom January 07, 2012 at 11:11 PM
@Todd: No idea why you are referring to their website as “your Mud Hen” website as I have nothing to do with their website. All I did was suggest that you take a look at their website inasmuch as I have done so just out of plain curiosity when the team surfaced. I strongly disagree with you concerning anyone, “taxpayer or not” having access to a “detailed” roster. You indicated you were a former umpire and LL player, but never indicated if you have any children, that play ball or not. That being said, as a mother, I want my children’s personal information protected. There are some undesirable people in this world and they should not have unlimited access to personal details of any child such as where they live, go to school or would be at any given time. These days you can locate anyone with the smallest amount of information. This is unsafe and leaves our children vulnerable. I applaud all websites that protect children’s identity.
Kenneth Rung January 07, 2012 at 11:25 PM
The pages that are password protected are for Mud Hen families only.  The players' information including the residence of each family is private and should remain as such.  The percentage of players from Malverne will be provided to the Village Board and I am confident that they will make the proper decision on behalf of the taxpayers.  The Mud Hens have played on several fields outside the Village including holding a tryout in East Meadow.  Some leagues and towns have been accommodating and some have not.  Last year we applied and received permits for school district fields for practices, however, we were unable to play games there due to improper field dimensions. I request that everyone reserve judgment until our requests and plans are made to the Village Board.  The Mud Hens will respect and accept the decision made by the Village Board.
sally January 08, 2012 at 06:01 AM
Hasn't Malverne's Little League website schedule/practice etc, always been pass-protected also? I do not think the children's names are of any concern in any organization. Franklin Square fields are and always have been permit accessible to outside travel leagues since forever. We have watched teams as far away as Brooklyn playing games against Franklin Square teams and other LI based teams in NCYAA league, Babe Ruth league, CYO. Franklin Square Lleague does NOT own their fields, the Town of Hempstead does. Valley Stream issues permits as well freely, however with Central HS itself having lack of regulation fields, Firemans field, the HS has first dibs on field time. Adult leagues etc play there all the time. No league should hold fields hostage, the Malverne Village Board should hold the key.
Todd Hundley January 09, 2012 at 01:31 PM
@baseball Mom, my apologies in regards to referring to the website as "your mud hens". I misread one of your prior posts. For the record, I'm in favor of the field use, albeit with an amicable agreement, with The Mud Hens acknowledging that they'll have to take, for lack of a better term, the left overs. And yes, I do have children, however they're not old enough to play tee ball just yet. I agree that there are undesirable people in this world, unfortunately, and my question in regards to the Mud Hens players was not for identity, but rather hometown. @Ken, thank you for the clarity you've provided, and I look forward to the board meeting. For the record, you can see most Little League coaches, or stop at any concession stand for detailed schedules for all the age levels within the Little League.
Mark From C-Town January 09, 2012 at 02:12 PM
I agree with Jack in that the MLL should have priority over the field usage. I'm sure the game schedule is available to be determined already (knowing that inclement weather can be an unknowing variable at this time) and once they know the number of teams, they can allocate X hours for practices a day/week. And I believe the district tournament dates are available well in advance as well. This would enable other organizations to take advantage of the non-used times. Does Malverne have a Parks & Rec person? Perhaps they can oversee a master schedule? Just a thought... I do agree with former postings saying that there is times when the field isn't used. Is the issue only with field usage? It's my understanding that the MLL owns the equipment (i.e. bases, scoreboards) as well as the items sold within its concession stand (although it may not own the physical structure, I am not sure). As Jack said earlier, I think the MLL should consider charging the mud hens if they want use of the equipment (or don't allow them to use/store it at all). Moreover, i would see this as a huge opportunity for the MLL to open their concession stands during mud hens games to enable more profits for their league.
baseball dad January 09, 2012 at 03:02 PM
From what I can gather, all the mudhens want is use of the fields when no one else is using them.Trustee Bailey mentioned that the use was minimal and in no way interfered with any activity,including any MLL game or practice.If they are willing to give priority to MLL and continue all that impressive community service(take a look at the website).They should not only be embraced by Malverne, but an organization we can be proud of and showcased!
B man January 09, 2012 at 11:17 PM
this whole situation is just sad..
Kit Keller February 11, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Was this ever resolved?
Tara Conry (Editor) February 11, 2012 at 09:51 PM
http://malverne-westhempstead.patch.com/articles/malverne-baseball-leagues-settle-field-feud
Tara Conry (Editor) February 11, 2012 at 09:52 PM
@Kit Please see the link above for the follow-up story

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