Little League President Threatens Legal Action Against BVN Print
News - Opinion
Written by Jack Porter, Jr.   
Tuesday, 10 March 2015 20:40
Photo from www.maderafb.com - Limited use under Fair Use DoctrineParks Admin Ignore ADA Issues With Baseball Complex Remodel

EDITORIAL - People should really not thrust themselves into the public arena unless they can stand the spotlight. A person cannot step-up to run a public organization that benefits hundreds of kids in this community then complain when they are being held accountable for or find that some disagree with their actions. Case in point, Steven Barsotti of Foster Parker Insurance, a two year board member and now president of the Madera National Little League.

At a parent meeting at Lincoln Elementary last month over one hundred Little League parents attended to hear changes to the league and meet their new board of directors. After the league's umpire coordinator Mark Palacios spoke, parents were asked if they had any questions. Out of the over one hundred people there, only one parent spoke up.

Jason Haas, a coach and parent in the league for several years, had a question about what Mr. Palacios had to say. About 30 seconds into Mr. Haas's question President Barsotti took the microphone away from Palacios and began speaking over Mr. Haas. When Barsotti was told the parent wasn't done speaking he said, "I am done listening."

When I asked him after the meeting why he rudely cut off that parent Barsotti's answer was, "This is my meeting."

It's the same attitude I've personally received from Barsotti for years. I warned people in Little League that this was what they were getting when they elected him President last year. Under Barsotti's new leadership a parent, at a parent meeting, can't ask questions without being rudely cut off by the president of the league?

What Mr. Barsotti forgets is that it is the parents that pay $120 per child to participate in Little League. As a team sponsor I also pay another $425 a year so 12 kids can have a team to play on with uniforms. The parents and sponsors write the checks. Whether Mr. Barsotti likes it or not, we have a voice.

Well like many people who have a last name with a long history in this community, Mr. Barsotti doesn't think he needs to be held accountable for his actions in the public spotlight. So when I wrote on my Facebook page what went down at the league's parent meeting, Mr. Barsotti had his attorney write me a "Cease and Desist" letter.

In defense of the accuracy of my post on Facebook, Barsotti said these things within feet of the leagues PIO Mike Gentry who is also the assistant district administrator for Little League District 10. The parent, Mr. Haas also heard Barsotti say he was done listening, as well as several of the parents in the audience.

Merced attorney Corbett Browning said in his letter that I was, "making untrue, disparaging and inflammatory comments online designed to attack personally and professionally Foster Parker Insurance and Steven Barsotti."

Multiple people heard the president's comments. When Barsotti said this was "My meeting!", Gentry, who was behind him, was shaking his head in disapproval. "What was untrue?

This is not my first "cease and desist" letter. I got my very first one when I wrote my very first story for Madera Online in 1997. It is hanging in a five dollar frame on my wall in my office. I am very proud of that letter and every one I have received since. I even have one from our current Madera County District Attorney when he was in private practice in Oakhurst. I am thinking that this one, from Barsotti,  needs to be framed and hung on my wall next to my first one.

You see this letter has nothing to do with my accurately quoting Barsotti in that meeting. It has to do with Barsotti being upset because I am in opposition to the remodeling of the Little League complex at Town and Country Park without addressing the needs of the handicapped. It's about how I dared to point out that the facility doesn't currently even come close to being compliant with the 1992 Federal American's With Disabilities Act.

Three years ago Little League International began a pilot program called 50/70. This is a division of Little League for thirteen year old kids. This division gives kids that are not quite ready to advance from the 60-foot base-path to the traditional 90-foot base-path. It lets more kids play baseball longer instead of their baseball careers ending at 12 years-old because they aren't quite ready for Babe Ruth or junior high school baseball.

For the last two years Madera National and American leagues have been playing 50/70 on the baseball fields at Sunrise Rotary Park near Millview Elementary School. The leagues could just as easily play on Field 4 on the corner of Howard Road and Schnoor Avenue at Town and County Park, but Madera National wants to remodel their fifty year old Field 1 on Howard Road.

In the mean time with budget cuts and the recent recession, maintenance at TOC Park has been somewhat non-existent. While individual private organizations such as Little League and the Breakfast and Evening Lions Clubs have spent their own monies updating their TOC facilities, the city has invested little-to-nothing on making improvements to the park.

However other parks in town like Rotary Park on Gateway Drive or McNally Park have seen massive improvements. It helps when they have city council members that stay on top of the parks department to get things done.

The restrooms at the Little League facility at TOC are not only out of compliance for handicap use, they are barely suitable for human use. While the toilets are low to the ground and too far away from the handicap railing on the walls, half of them don't even have toilet seats. They are the stainless steel toilets you would find at the county jail or state prison.

In the woman's restroom the sink sits at the end of a five foot hall way between the exterior wall and the wall of a toilet stall. There isn't even enough room to negotiate a wheelchair or walker so that a person could use it if they were able to use the toilets.

Mary Anne Seay, the parks director for the city of Madera, said in an email to BVN that there were only two legal responsibilities for the city regarding ADA and this facility at TOC Park. Those are: "1) we need to ensure that there is adequate and appropriate ADA parking, and 2.) we need to ensure a clear path of travel to the renovated site.  If the renovations do happen, the law will be followed and staff will make sure that parking and path of travel items are completed."

So according to the city parks director, ensuring that new renovation  includes ADA compliant restrooms and snack bars is not a legal requirements of the city? Is there an ADA attorney reading this that wants to step up and show Ms. Seay where she is WRONG? Is there an ADA attorney out there who might want to point out to the city that over 90% of their handicap parking throughout Madera is out of compliance?

She would be right if we were speaking of facilities that were in place prior to the 1992 ADA legislation. But since ADA became the law of the land, the city has made several improvements to the 50 year old Little League facility. The snack bar was remodeled, the restrooms were built, second story press-box facilities were constructed, fences were raised and two sets of stairs have been constructed to the press-box.

Now a complete remodel of Field 1 is being planned which would include moving the fence and light poles back twenty to thirty feet, moving the scoreboards and advertising, removing some old-growth    trees (50+ yrs) and increasing the size of the infield. In short, several thousands of dollars of new improvements. But nothing is being spent to bring the existing facilities into compliance so that people with special needs can also use the area.

"Wait a second buddy, people in wheelchairs don't play baseball", you might be saying. Au contraire, Mon Frere, Madera National Little League now fields a division called 'Challenger'. The Challenger division is filled with kids who have special needs. Kids with mental and physical challenges, including kids with aliments that force them into walkers and wheelchairs. These kids play on Field 1 on Sundays during the Little League season. Isn't this enough of a reason to fix the restrooms let alone the barriers on the field?

"Barriers on the field?", well yes. The dugouts on Field 1 and 2 are not accessible to the kids with wheelchairs or walkers because the opening to the fence is less than 22 inches wide and there is a four inch step-up from the grass. Those kids can't take cover behind the fence to protect them from foul balls or missed plays putting their safety at risk. Come on, Mr. Barsotti. Don't ALL the kids playing in your league deserve to do so in a safe environment?

A lot of these issues can be solved if Steven Barsotti and Mary Anne Seay would just start thinking about including the needs of the disabled of our community when deciding on the priorities involved with their plans. This comes down to a simple concept, NEEDS over WANTS. Mr. Barsotti and Little League WANTS a 50/70 field at the facility where they already play. The disabled NEED basic accessible restrooms and snack bars that the Federal government said 23 years ago they have a right to expect.

If Field 1 is remodeled for 50/70 baseball, not one extra child will be able to play baseball. If Field 1 is not remodeled for 50/70 baseball, not one child will be kept from playing baseball. The Field 1 remodel is a WANT from Little League because there are fields they have already been using for two years which are still available.

The disabled don't have a choice, unless it is to "walk" the quarter-mile to the TOC softball complex where the restrooms are accessible. I actually had a Madera City Council member suggest this last week during his TOC tour, as a solution to the restroom issues at Field 1.

Three city council members have come out for my tour of the problems that are high on the list of improvements the park actually  NEEDS. I think each of them walked away with a sense that the restrooms are beyond non-compliant with ADA, they are disgusting. There are real issues that need to be addressed before the city should agree to funds being devoted to a project which does not include a plan to fix existing ADA issues. Even if Little League itself completely funds this project, the city council should demand that the ADA issues come first. People have only been waiting for 23 years!

Even though we no longer really have an ADA Advisor Council for the City of Madera, their old web site states, "Promote ADA compliance in all public facilities. Work with City of Madera Departments to ensure that all public facilities, remodeled and newly constructed, are in compliance with current laws guaranteeing access for all people with disabilities."

Let's hope this is remembered by our city council at their next meeting.

There will be a meeting at the Madera City Council on Wednesday March 18th at 7pm where this issue will be presented. However I don't think this will be the last we hear of the compliance issues at Town and County Park.

It is just a matter of time before one of the hundreds of ADA attorneys traveling the state come across this facility and bring litigation against the city and possibly the Little League and Lions Club's (privately funded organizations who run and have control over these facilities).

I certainly hope this never happens. Because it's not hard to see that losing one ADA lawsuit against Little League could easily bankrupt the program for years. Perhaps, preventing such a thing ought to become part of the City's and the Little League's future planning?
Challeger photos from Madera National Little League and Little Leage California District 10
Steve Barsotti Photo from FBMadera.com -
Used under the Federal Fair Use Doctrine