Members of the baseball community push back against resolution

Recently Vienna city council voted to replace three Jackson Park ball fields for the sole use of youth soccer.
Published: Nov. 19, 2022 at 12:51 AM EST
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VIENNA, W.Va. (WTAP) - WTAP’s taking a deeper look into the baseball and soccer fields resolution that Vienna city council voted to pass. It’s a measure that’s stirred up passionate push back from members of the baseball community - both from parents and coaches.

One local said at a city council meeting last week, “Please please reconsider for our kids. We do not want to lose what we’ve built for so many years trying to get this back on track.”

Another local at Thursday’s townhall, which was organized by a couple Vienna city council members, said, “What we’re advocating for is youth sports but you see what’s happening is you’re going to take some away to accommodate one. That’s what’s happening with the solution you guys voted on.”

Recently Vienna city council voted to replace three Jackson Park ball fields for the sole use of youth soccer. While some officials have said that they don’t plan on cutting programs, some locals fear that it’s inevitable.

Morgan Taylor, a parent of kids who play baseball, said, “It definitely will impact how many kids can play baseball without a doubt. There’s just no - there’s no way to fit them all in three fields.”

Baseball coach and parent Charlie Taylor said, even if officials decide to move the baseball fields to another location, he’s doubtful it would logistically work for the baseball community.

“For instance, I’ll have a 4U game from five to 5:45 on field five and then I’ve got an 8U game at 6 on field one. So, if field 5 is now 15 minutes across town, then how am I supposed to get from my 4U game to the 8U game in a reasonable amount of time? You know, there’s only so many hours after work on a week day to these games and that’s when we play them,” he explained.

The Taylors added that kids in Vienna would not be the only ones impacted, saying that kids from other areas play on the Jackson Park fields and kids from Belpre, Williamstown, etc. play for Vienna Rec.

Park Department Director Steve Black said he’s the only one on the V.R.I.A., also known as the Vienna Recreation and Improvement Association, who’s pushing back against the measure.

“I’ve had a number of calls from folks...the question is, without those fields, what are we going to do? And I’ve told them, we would have to cut programs and turn kids away. I put that in an email to council…some didn’t read it that way,” he said.

The resolution was recently discussed at a townhall held by Vienna city council members Kim Williams and Chris Mancuso. Both emphasized working towards a compromise.

“A resolution is…it can be changed pretty easily,” Williams said.

One idea some people have voiced their support for is only taking one field away from baseball.

Charlie Taylor said, “Taking field four alone would still have an impact, you know, on us and on the baseball program but it would have a significantly less impact than if they took fields five and six.”

Black said fields five and six are used regularly.

Williams and Mancuso said they want to put a pause on any further action until they can get officials and the baseball and soccer communities together to discuss.

“It’s not like we’re tearing up those fields with bulldozers right now. We’re not going to make any moves and I think everyone is on the same page about that,” Mancuso said.

The V.R.I.A. has faced criticism over how they handled the situation from the baseball community.

The board voted unanimously for the measure before it got to city council. To clarify, Black was out of town during that vote.

Both Black and some members of the baseball community say the V.R.I.A. lacked effort in getting feedback from people who would be impacted by the resolution.

Locals have also expressed frustration over what they call a lack of transparency. Multiple people say they have had trouble getting a hold of the V.R.I.A., not including Black.

One local at the townhall said, “Chuck Noffsinger won’t return none of my calls, won’t return some other people’s here phone calls…,”

WTAP has reached out to V.R.I.A. President Chuck Noffsinger multiple times throughout the week but he has not gotten back to us.

At Thursday’s townhall, both Williams and Mancuso expressed regret over voting for the measure.

Williams was one of the two Vienna city council members (the other was Tom Azinger) who attempted to table the measure, according to Williams. She said she read an email sent from Black to city council that outlined everything and made the consequences of the resolution ‘pretty clear.’ Williams said she wondered if other council members had read it. However, since the measure passed through the V.R.I.A. and park board with unanimous approval, she decided to vote for it.

“..., and I do apologize for my vote,” she said.

Mancuso added, “When we’re given information that says it’s fully supported unanimously by two departments that run the recreation, you know, to me that says there has been thought put into this and it’s not coming to us without a plan in place so learning that there wasn’t really a plan in place was definitely frustrating for me. Learning that this actually could impact the baseball community and in some pretty significant ways was very frustrating for me.”

At the end of the townhall meeting, Williams promised she would call Chuck Noffsinger to talk about the issue.

Black said there is a committee coming up with alternatives to the current resolution that passed.