The dream lives on at KLL park

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By TAMMY READY

Once again, I am compelled to write a letter to Keizetimes, and possibly the Statesman Journal. This time it’s not to critique the Keizer Volunteer Coordinating Committee (VCC), the Keizer Parks and Recreation Board, or Keizer City Council. This letter is being written in response to an editorial written by Lyndon Zaitz, the owner and editor of the Keizertimes, who misreported, and unfortunately did the citizens, youth, and the city of Keizer a huge disservice.

The editorial was titled “Field of Broken Dreams” Really? Our oldest son played for Keizer Little League for over six years, and is now grown and in college. Our youngest son has played Keizer Youth Sports Association for three years now. As parents we’ve been involved in both programs, volunteering our time for field maintenance, concessions, painting, bleacher repairs, equipment, etc. This weekend my husband and many others spent nearly six hours helping the evaluators at McNary High School evaluate hundreds of kids for the upcoming Keizer Youth Sports Association (KYSA) season. The battle between the Keizer City Council and the ball fields has been ongoing for years. It’s been a sore subject on the minds of many. I remember the past when City of Keizer trucks could be seen around the ball fields, maintaining much of the fields. Unfortunately I have not seen them in the past three years.

Lyndon Zaitz’s article gives the perception that out of the blue KYSA has asked for half a million dollars, when in fact, KYSA has been asking for help. KYSA was asked to submit a list of repairs which they have done three times a year for the past three years.  I remember a past Keizer City Council meeting I attended where Kurt Barker was told by the council to make a list and present it to the council for review; this is after the request had been ongoing. This “fight” for help with the fields from the City of Keizer has been long and exhausting for all of the volunteers, parents and citizens of Keizer. The City of Keizer is OK with reaping the rewards the ball fields have to offer when it continuously provides revenue, but when it comes to the fields asking for help, it becomes front page news.

The article states when the fields were maintained by Keizer Little League (KLL), the community, civic leaders, and boosters that had children in the program all volunteered their time. He states thousands of volunteer hours were used under KLL to mow the fields, make repairs and complete concessions.  His article insinuates the parents of KYSA do not provide these same volunteer hours. We have lived in Keizer for over 16 years, and I assure you the parents of KYSA do put in volunteer hours. Not 1000 hours, but countless hours. To quote a friend, his article is a “sucker punch to the gut” to the hundreds if not thousands of volunteers who have provided countless hours of service to make KYSA and the fields something we all can be proud of.  We’ve maintained fields, concessions, backstop repair, bleacher repair, weed control, fixed broken equipment and the like. By we, I mean the parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends who don’t even have children in the program.

The article states it’s not too late for KYSA to emulate KLL. Zaitz states KYSA needs to make a list and “get their own people involved”. I am writing to let him know that our own people are and have been involved. I can only hope his letter was written in haste and in retrospect there is some amount of humiliation. KYSA and the ball fields are about kids, parents, community, and our future citizens we are molding and shaping through this program. I choose to hope in writing his article he was misinformed, or simply just trying to stir the pot for the circulation of his paper, maybe as a business owner to gain subscribers, and that he doesn’t actually believe what he wrote.

Zaitz stated in his article that youth baseball at the Little League Park was something the whole community could rally around and it’s time for KYSA to rally Keizerites to come to the aid of their own field of dreams. That is exactly what KYSA parents, volunteers, family members and friends are doing.  One of the main differences between the then KLL and the now KYSA, is the support of the City of Keizer, the Keizer City Council, and the Parks and Recreation board. The problem is politics. As a parent and volunteer, it feels as if the City of Keizer has staged a war between the city and the fields. It seems as though the City of Keizer, Lyndon Zaitz and people like them have forgotten what this should be about; the kids, the future citizens of Keizer.  I think if the Keizer City Council, Lyndon Zaitz and people like them spent as much time and effort on helping and supporting the ball fields, parents, and kids as they do criticizing and publicly reprimanded them, it would and could be a win: win for everyone. I mention the different committees and the Keizer City Council as a whole. However, I know some of the members of the committees and the Keizer City Council do support KYSA, but the appearance in the Keizer community is the majority of those groups as a whole do not.

At the most recent Keizer City Council meeting held on Tuesday, February 19, 2013, some of the public testimony surrounded the budget and the request for money from KYSA. Some of the comments and discussion from public testimony and the council were shocking. One Keizer citizen who was originally involved with KLL said the KLL motto was “pride, spirit, and volunteerism” and he insinuated KYSA’s motto is different.  I assure you, KYSA parents, kids, and volunteers do have pride, spirit, and volunteerism and that is what keeps us involved and coming back every year.  He went on to insinuate KYSA has damaged the fields in some way. I assure you they have not. A couple of council members expressed dismay and questioned why and how the ball park could go from 100 percent of the funding for the park being from volunteerism under KLL, and all of a sudden change to KYSA needing funding to continue to operate. I applaud Mr. Richard Walsh for expressing his take on the subject, or what he believed to be the opinion of KYSA. He expressed the needed repairs and safety concerns didn’t happen solely in the last couple of years, but some were in existence when KYSA took over. One council member even said they were mad at the request of KYSA for the funds. Mayor Lore Christopher mentioned when she was an active volunteer for KLL they had “work days.” I assure her, we still do have them, and have had them under KYSA’s reign. I further applaud Councilor Jim Taylor’s comments, stating this is “fixable,” if we all go all in and take an active role in the ball fields and the success of them.

The funding and maintenance at the Keizer Ball Fields is anything but the norm in most cities. Most ball fields are either subsidized or completely maintained by the city or other recreation district. Keizer’s ball fields are solely funded and maintained by volunteerism. I know many of the KLL members and associates from the past and current KYSA members and associates now who spend more time at the fields than they do at home. This is definitely true from February through summer. Times have changed and so has society. Many families in past could get by with one income. I don’t know many that have any other choice than to be two income families today. In the past a few people could come together and build a structure, retaining wall, backstop, field and bleachers. However, with so many of the rules and regulations today, it’s simply not possible. Today’s world is based on money, liability and whether or not something is earthquake proof. Fifteen years ago I could make cupcakes and send them to school for our son’s birthday celebration. We could have cake walks at school carnivals with actual homemade cakes. Now everything must be store bought. Many years ago, the Keizer Ball Fields were fortunate to have the resources of Bob Newton and Rob Kissler. However in today’s world, I don’t know that their resources would be accepted due to all of the rules and regulations as they pertain to building structures and such based on liability alone.

Thank you to the many leaders of KYSA, Kurt Barker, Scott Kaiser, Jake Martin, Brian Aicher and all of the KYSA Board of Directors for all you have done in the past, current, and future in making sure the Keizer ball fields are safe and in good repairs for all of Keizer to share and use, no matter how much criticism doing so has brought to you. It takes great leaders to handle the tough tasks most do not want to be involved in. It takes strong people to ask for help when it is needed. You have the support of all of us behind you.  All of the committees, council and community should be proud KYSA didn’t wait until it was too late.

In closing, I in no way believe the Little League Fields are a “Field of Broken Dreams”. What’s really sad is the nightmare KYSA has been involved in and portrayed as. As a participant in both KLL and KYSA, I have to say this is and should be about the kids, not politics, not the Keizer City Council, but the kids. I am a proud KYSA parent, volunteer, and citizen of Keizer. I am not proud of the way KYSA is being treated in the media and political forums. Imagine what this amazing program could be if all of the citizens of Keizer, the VCC, the Keizer Parks and Recreation board, the Keizer City Council, the Keizertimes along with the parents and volunteers were to all to team up, drop the politics, the finger pointing, negative publicity, and the “KLL is good and KYSA is bad” attitude and support a program that helps provide an amazing foundation to our youth in a positive way. This is one letter, written by one person, but from the communication I’ve had with many of our “own people” it seems to be the common sentiment shared.

(Tammy Ready lives in Keizer.)

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