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Village Vision News

Trustees reverse on agreement with youth baseball league for Diamond No. 1 upgrades

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A reversal by the board of trustees on an earlier agreement with the Forsyth Youth League was far from popular with those in attendance at the Oct. 7 board meeting. The announcement was met with disdain, disappointment and even sarcasm.

Parents, youth league officials and a couple of young ballplayers were on hand to listen to Mayor Marilyn Johnson explain the board’s decision to rescind her authority to approve the Forsyth Youth League Agreement reached in August.

Mike Turner, president of the youth league, had come before the board on June 3, July 15 and Aug. 5 to ask that the village consider contributing $10,000 from the hotel/motel tax fund to an upgrade of Diamond No. 1. Turner said that the youth league would contribute another $5,000 and volunteer labor toward the effort.

The agreement called for improvements to Diamond No. 1, in particular the addition of a grass infield, which Turner believed would be key to attracting travel teams to town for revenue-generating tournaments.

Turner said at the time that “if the tournaments are a successful endeavor, and I don’t know why that wouldn’t happen,” he thought the result would be more visitors patronizing local restaurants, shops and hotels. The village would benefit from the added sales tax revenue the tournaments would generate.

Trustee Bob Gruenewald expressed concern over the summer that there might not be enough ball diamonds, especially for the youngest players in the league because the tournaments would be tailored for older youth players. Turner assured the board it wouldn’t be a problem.

The competing factor in all this is the fact that the village is trying to land a men’s Illinois Amateur Softball Association tournament. The ASA doesn’t play on grass infields. The group also prefers to play where beer is allowed to be sold.

Village Attorney Jeff Jurgens has written an amendment that would allow for one special event liquor license per year so that alcohol could be sold in the park.

The idea of the village amending its code to allow the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages on park property was not met with open arms by more than one resident in attendance.

One parent, David Benner, didn’t like the idea that his son, a youth league baseball player, was competing with softball players that he described as “old, fat guys who like to drink beer.”

Jim Hoback called it a “sad day when we allow beer in our parks.”

In response to a comment by resident Leo Morland that the parks are for all people, “even fat guys who want to play softball,” Hoback said it was certainly OK to play softball in the park.

“Fat guys can play softball,” Hoback said, turning from the podium to face Morland. “Just don’t allow beer. That’s pathetic.”

“Shame on you,” Hoback said to board members. “I won’t allow my kids in the park that day, will you?”

But, in the end, the possibility of limiting who would play on the diamonds is what turned the decision more than the chance of hosting the ASA event, the mayor said.

“Our girls could no longer play on the field was the deciding factor, not ASA softball,” Johnson said. “I called all the trustees, and that was the response.”

Turner of the youth league wanted to know what had changed, citing his three previous visits to the board. He called the abrupt change in the spirit of the agreement and the suspension of the project shocking.

“Our kids bring people to the community all summer only to be superseded by adult softball played over three days by teams from out of town,” Turner said.

Trustee Steve Hubbard, who had made the motion to approve the agreement back in August, talked about his time coaching softball and said that he had always tried to support the leagues as a board member. But he added that he thought that “we probably rushed the decision.”

Trustee Dave Wendt, who had seconded Hubbard’s August motion, cited emails and feedback he’s since gotten from residents concerned about limitations of availability of diamonds. As for the possibility of the park hosting both an ASA tournament and youth travel teams in the future, Wendt was open to options.

“If we can do both, that would be best,” Wendt said.

The motion to rescind the mayor’s authority to approve the Forsyth Youth League Agreement carried with one dissenting vote from Trustee Bob Rasho, who said it should be a “balanced decision with the spirit of our community and with being business friendly.” He urged further discussion.

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