First the formalities: Hello all! I’m BAAACK!! Just as Jack Torrance uttered in the movie, “The Shining,” it also leads me to another thought from Michael Corleone in, “The Godfather III,”
“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”
Only this time, I come not kicking and screaming, but willing to serve a purpose for the youth of our community, and those that immediately surround the Indian Wells Valley. My objective for my third foray into the newspaper business with the Daily Independent will focus on youth sports. Those athletes, coaches, and parents who prepare their sons and daughters for the bright lights of high school, college and the professional ranks. So here is to another great run!
Indian Wells Valley Youth Baseball
Having served as a board member and past president of IWVYB during the late 90’s and early 2000’s I have a keen awareness of the extreme viability of this program. Back in my heyday, Bill Folden and I, and our respective boards attempted to get Jim Ponek, former City of Ridgecrest Parks and Recreation Director, to buy into the concept of a new and improved Kerr McGee Field. We looked over designs, plans, and money for years. It never came to fruition!
During those years we had the same motivations, the same wants, needs and desires when Chip Holloway was the head of the Quality of Life committee during his reign on the city council.
What I never anticipated 14 years after I left the board was what happened to IWV Baseball this year. What a catastrophe! What a shame for that unit, its players and our baseball product.
President Don Phillips and his board must have had many sleepless nights since the fateful opening of their season, typically the last week of February.
When I returned to Ridgecrest in early February, I took notice of the Kerr McGee renovation. Reading and hearing rumors of the five fields holding baseball games by late April seemed unreasonable, but I began to believe as the sod took center stage. The earth moved quickly (it seemed) and next thing we know magic was in the air.
Water spilled on the green grass and the snow geese took their rightful place amongst the seed. By March we started to see some more movement, and soon fence posts, backstop work, and cement began to flow at the park.
BAM! What happened? Suddenly, worked seemed to come to a standstill. April was slipping away and so was the chance to see the kids play a full slate of games.
Meanwhile, the baseball league sludged along trying to fit in at the Leroy Jackson fields, where they battled for playing time with long-time tenants Burroughs High Softball, and City of Ridgecrest Recreation Adult Softball.
If you never had a child play baseball, here is what a week at six free fields, six days a week looks like: Five divisions, at least five teams each. Two practices a week, and at least two games a week. From Monday through Friday, at least one game is played at each of the five fields after 5 p.m. each night. Saturdays hold two to three games on each field.
In 2018, I do not know the stats, IWVYB had to move down to three fields, when they could get them, and it was quickly realized that the season would never be what it was envisioned. It just couldn’t. The demand was just too much for the supply.
Now, here we sit on May 15 and the Kerr McGee Fields just had the foul territory fences stretched, and the backstops still have to go up, probably the most grueling work for a fenceperson because of the sheer height and curve to them.
I had a chance to speak with Phillips last week via telephone. If I could have seen his face, I would bet I would have seen a man with a painstakingly-shaken grimace. Phillips had no words of encouragement for me and held out a slight hope that a few playoff games could be played at Kerr McGee this season.
To make matters worse, IWVYB has been a long-standing venue for some summer playoff action. Now the Sidewinder teams are going to have to be on the road to advance to sectional and regional championships.
That’s a tough chore for eight to 14-year-old players.
The Shetland League players ended their season Saturday. You wouldn’t know their season was cut short – drastically – because of their smiles with trophies, ribbons, and other accolades made this season a winning one for them.
How did we get here?
Because Bakersfield is a world away, and I failed to follow the local sports news like I should have, I have to ask … If the money issues finally cleared in January, why would anybody think a project like this could take place inside of four months?
Why sacrifice the good of the youth and the valuable time of volunteers, parents and the board members with what amounted to a quarter of a season.
Why not wait until baseball was over in July?
Or, why couldn’t the monies and plans be passed in August 2017? It would have given the contractors seven months to rebuild the Kerr McGee Fields?
Something was definitely amiss here … and it is called foresight from the Parks and Recreation Department, which brought us to this missed opportunity for our youth.
Now all we have is hindsight.
– Bob Smith is a former 9-year employee of The Daily Independent holding positions as Sports Editor, Managing Editor, and Editor of the Rocketeer II.
The views expressed are those of the columnist and do not necessarily represent the official stance of the Daily Independent