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Hey Little League: It's River Park's Time To Shine Print E-mail
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Written by B|V|N Newsroom   
Monday, 18 June 2012 23:40
Another Big Valley News Exclusive Editorial

It's All Star season again for our Little Leaguers and this next week the District 10 tournament will kick off in Reedley and Madera with individual games being played at Sunnyside, Chowchilla and River Park.

For the last few years District 10 has also hosted a sectional tournament for the three divisions (9-10, 10-11 or 11-12) that we have in this half of the old Section 6. Some towns also support the junior and senior divisions of Little League for their teenage players and District 10 has hosted sectionals for that age group as well in Turlock and Los Banos.

For the most part the sectional tournaments have been hosted in Madera. Probably the reason for this is the former district administrator knew he could count on the Madera leagues to run his tournaments without a hitch. Madera has a great base of volunteers in both the American and National leagues.

This has been a year of change for District 10. For one thing Little League broke up District 10 and Section 6, cutting it in two and creating a new district to the North of Merced to Turlock (District 73) and creating a new section from Chowchilla to Taft (Section 7).

There has also been a change in leadership after the death of the long-time District 10 administrator, Bob Berry. He was replaced by interim administrator John Gray. But Gray decided his time in Little League was over after this season and did not run for the district administrator job. The new district administrator Doug Wells is from Selma and his new district board will take office in October of this year.

With the new section, a newly redefined district and a new district administration, why can't the jewel of California Little League, the facilities at River Park, be the host site for a district, sectional or even a state tournament?

For years there seems to have been a feud between District Administrator Bob Berry and the leadership at River Park. I never understood where the feud started or if anyone at River Park was even around when the first shots were fired.

I've known each River Park president since 2004 and none of them wanted to battle with Bob Berry. But for some reason the feud continued to persist. In 2006 River Park hosted its only sectional, for the 10-11 year old division. Later that All Star season the 12 year old team from River Park made it to the final games of the Western Regional live on ESPN, just one game shy of an appearance in the Little League World Series.

I attended those games in San Bernardino. I had lunch with district administrators from all around the west coast. One district administrator was missing, the one from District 10. The feud was so bad that the man couldn't support a team from his own district that went further than any other team from District 10. With this lack of support at the district level it’s not hard to understand why the finest facility I have ever seen for Little League has been left out of the big games that a facility like this was built to host.

Now having shot photos at River Park for the last eight years I am sort of a snob when I talk about their facility. I know other leagues work hard to maintain their fields but the grass at River Park is different. It feels the same as the grass at Fresno State or Grizzlies Stadium. When you walk into the park you see a monument built to celebrate Little League. There are four perfectly groomed fields, a full snack bar and a clubhouse that over looks the whole thing.

I have been all over the state and I haven't found a facility that even compares to River Park. I've been at several facilities for Sectional and Divisional tournaments that don't even have score boards let alone concrete sidewalks or asphalt parking lots. I’ve been to state championships where the outfield was a foot lower than the infield.

Last year a sectional was held in Ion, California. Have you ever been to Ion, California? Their hotel capacity is probably 10 rooms. The "town" had a combination Pizza Factory, ice cream parlor, video store and ATM. This represented the largest attraction on Ion’s  three block main street. You had to drive several miles away for a hotel or a choice in restaurants. Although, there was a place advertising ‘marijuana’ t-shirts 3 for $12.

Chico held the state tournament for the last two years but their field was hidden off of Freeway 99 in a swampy area at the end of a half mile dirt trail. I have never experienced a worse mosquito problem than what I suffered at the game I shot in Chico.  If you wanted a hotel room you had to drive a few more miles down the freeway to the city of Chico. Nothing was around the ball park but a concrete company.

In Fresno at River Park you have at least five national hotels and several restaurants within walking distance of the park. You have an entertainment and shopping center for the moms and kids and a first class sports bar less than a mile away for the dads. If a team has a night off, a Triple-A baseball game is just a quick drive up Highway 41. You have everything to make an out-of-town team happy within a mile of the ball park. Did I mention the Yosemite National Park is a day trip away?

How can the powers that be in Williams Port or at Western Regional continue to ignore such a facility? Will the new administration for District 10 go to bat for the crown jewel of California Little League?

Do you think River Park Little League should be a site for one of next year's Divisional/State Championships? Tell us what your opinion is on the Big Valley News Message Board.

 By Jack Porter, BVN Publisher


Week One of District 10 All Star Tournament
Tournament of Champions in Madera
Editorial on the State of District 10


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