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Morales: Field advantage: Reid Park baseball a great 'equalizer' for Tucson's kids
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Morales: Field advantage: Reid Park baseball a great 'equalizer' for Tucson's kids

Annex fields next to Hi Corbett should be fixed up, not eliminated

  • Hi Corbett Field at Reid Park
    Bill Morrow/FlickrHi Corbett Field at Reid Park

Andy Morales has been a public school teacher in the Amphitheater School District for more than three decades, and reports on youth and high school sports for AllSportsTucson.com.

Tucson city officials call it “Reid Park Reimagined.” I guess that’s a good term for it. It’s a “Master Plan” that, they say, began sometime in March with a “Plan Celebration” set for some time in November. The “celebration” will come after 12 weeks of “Discovery,” 18 weeks of “Vision” and 15 weeks of “Action.” The “Concepts” were developed, supposedly from various stakeholders, and there are three of them. Oh, and they are remarkably similar in that they all remove baseball fields that have been a part of our community for more than 65 years.

The annex baseball fields have changed names a few times, from the “Hi Corbett Annex” to the “Randolph Park Annex” and to what they are now known as — the “Reid Park Annex.” But, through it all, the main four fields have served our community for about a decade longer than the Reid Park Zoo.

Concept 1 removes Fields 2 and 3 in favor of a “Flexible Sports Lawn” and a pathway. Concept 2 removes Fields 2, 3 and 4 in favor of a “Bird Blind,” “Desert Landscape Gardens,” and an “Observation Structure.” Concept 3 removes Field 2, 3 and 4 in favor of “Horse Shoe Courts,” and, I kid you not, a “Hammock Grove.”

The city must leave one field, I’ve been told, due to contracts with the University of Arizona due to the baseball team utilizing Hi Corbett Stadium. I’m also told the designers are saving the wrong field according to those contracts but that’s an argument for the university and the city to get involved with. I’m told Field 3 is the field used by the Wildcats, not Field 1.

The unknown and unnamed “Reimagined Committee” claims some 90,000 emails were sent out to community members with about 1,500 “clicks” in response to those emails. In all, just under 3,000 ‘Points of Engagement” are claimed by this committee. One of those engagements was legendary local baseball coordinator Bill Leith, who has designed multiple leagues from youth and high school teams to the American Legion and a successful summer college league. He tells me he was a part of organizing over 7,000 baseball games in the last 12 years, with about 1,000 of those taking place at the Reid Park Annex.

It is very doubtful that anyone in our community has come close to that kind of official interaction with Reid Park, and for that length of time. He forwarded to me comments that he emailed to Greg Jackson, deputy director of the Tucson Parks and Recreation Department, back in May. Leith’s suggestions included lighting Field 5 due to Arizona taking Field 3, extending the dugouts to make them bigger, expanding the restroom building to more than one each for men and women, signage for the annex fields, a professional kiosk to charge admission rather than popup tents, and expanded parking.

Leith added, “The fields are well maintained. From a baseball perspective some amenity upgrades will enhance the baseball portion of the park and its rich history.”

As you can see, none of Leith’s suggestions got anywhere but a hammock grove did. Who is this “hammock grove” expert in Tucson that the City Parks and Recreation Department gave so much weight to?

The fact is, I point out the “hammock grove” folly because it signifies a move backwards for our community from correcting a long history of damaging relations with minority neighborhoods. We cannot go back and fix what happened to the barrios that were destroyed to make room for the Tucson Convention Center. No one knows what happened to those families but we do know the Reid Park Annex has been, what my late father — former City Councilman Hector A. Morales — called an “equalizer.”

Multi-millionaires, poor kids from the wrong side of the railroad tracks, and families from all of Southern Arizona have played on those fields – for at least 65 years. All a kid needed was a ball, a bat, a glove and a team, and Tucson is known for its teams. The Reid Park Annex is an equalizer. No other field or park in Tucson can claim that. Somehow, I have a feeling a “hammock grove” would never, ever be seen as an outreach to our greater community. Certainly not for the greater good. Someone, it seems, is going out of their way to remove the baseball fields but for what purpose?

The city put out a survey, with only the three concepts listed, and responses are due on Sept. 30. There was an open house on Saturday, Sept. 10, at the DeMeester Outdoor Performance Center and I had two conversations with what appeared to be low-level staffers in attendance. One told me the drawings were purposely drawn this way in case they need room for the four fields and another told me the city would never destroy the fields unless arrangements for other fields at another park were made first. Others in attendance told me they were brushed off as baseball guys by staff at the open house.

I hope what I was told by the staffers was true but the Parks and Recreation website has no mention of changes being possible. In their own words, “The end-goal of Phase two: bring together the best parts of each concept to create a visionary Reid Park that meets the needs of Tucson over the next 50 years.” There is no mention of any parts except for the ones “imagined” in the three concepts. This seems like a done deal.

However, Councilmen Steve Kozachik (Ward 6) and Paul Cunningham (Ward 2) have gone on the record that getting rid of the four fields is not a good idea. The concept drawings do leave plenty of space for the field to stay until the city can locate another centrally located park to fulfill the needs of our community. The city also has to consider the University of Arizona.

At any rate, I’m not one to fall for that overused cliché of taking a siesta. I have no need for one hammock or a grove full of them. I do have a responsibility to the youth in our community to make sure they are served well by the Old Pueblo.

Andy Morales has been a public school teacher in the Amphitheater School District for more than three decades, and reports on youth and high school sports for AllSportsTucson.com.


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