Now, they find that most of the league’s 50 teams will have to move out of their longtime home a year sooner than planned, which leaves the league scrambling to find a place to play for the 2013 season.
The league learned this spring that Tracy Unified School District plans to build a new high school baseball field at Monte Vista Middle School, displacing many of the 600 players in Tracy Babe Ruth, which has called the school home since 1976.
Tracy Babe Ruth Vice President Ponch Martinez, who grew up in the league, said it’s a case of a landlord telling a tenant of 36 years that it’s time to move out.
“That’s what it feels like: We’re being evicted,” Martinez said.
Even though Babe Ruth will have five fields at the new Holly Sugar sports complex, the league can’t begin constructing those fields until the start of 2013. That leaves far too little time to put in ball fields before February practices and the start of games in March.
At the root of the shuffle is the Tracy High baseball team’s need for a new varsity field.
Demolition of the football stadium at Tracy High is scheduled to begin July 5, and the varsity diamond adjoining it will give way to a new stadium. During the construction, the Bulldog football and baseball teams are expected to play their 2012-13 games at West and Kimball high schools. The baseball diamond along Lowell Avenue at Monte Vista, where the Tracy High sophomore team has traditionally played, will also be available.
Meanwhile, Tracy Unified will build a new high school field at Monte Vista. It will replace three of Babe Ruth’s fields and make the middle school the home of the varsity, sophomore and freshman Bulldog baseball teams.
Construction of the new field leaves Tracy Babe Ruth in limbo for the 2013 season, though, and league president Troy Camacho said the league had reached an impasse with the school district.
“If they gave us one more year here, we could move from here to Holly Sugar, but they don’t want to give us one more year,” he said.
“The 600 kids we have in this league, the majority of them are Tracy Unified School District kids. We thought they would work with us to figure out a solution so the kids would have a place to play.”
Casey Goodall, Tracy Unified’s associate superintendent for business, said the district tried to find answers for Tracy Babe Ruth, but the new diamond for the high school program can’t be delayed, because it is tied in with other improvements at Tracy High.
“There is a huge scarcity of fields, but we have to provide fields for the high school, because that’s our prescribed function,” Goodall said.
He added that Tracy Unified offered Babe Ruth the use of the remaining three fields at Monte Vista, two fields at South/West Park School on Mount Diablo Avenue and two fields at Freiler School on Lowell Avenue, with the West and Kimball fields also open to Babe Ruth’s older players.
“We think that it brings it back to the same number of fields,” Goodall said.
But Babe Ruth leaders said the solution doesn’t help for a few reasons, starting with the scheduling of games.
The diamonds at Monte Vista and at West and Kimball highs would be reserved for the high school teams until 6 p.m. and available to Babe Ruth after that. Camacho said that limited daylight hours, especially at the start of the season in March, would not leave enough time for full games.
“Even now (in late spring), if we start at 6 o’clock, there’s no guarantee that we’ll get a game in by 8 p.m.,” Camacho said.
Goodall noted that the South/West Park and Freiler fields would be available as early as 3:30 in the afternoon, right after school is out.
Scheduling teams at several schools would be a big change, however, for a league that has had a single venue for all of its games for more than three decades.
In addition to keeping all of the league’s maintenance equipment in one place and running a permanent snack bar that raises money for the league, Tracy Babe Ruth counts the ability to host all of its games at one venue as the key to accommodating families.
“Having the fields at different parks is hard on families that have multiple kids, especially single-parent families,” Camacho said. “Once they’re split up, we’re going to lose all those kids and all those families.”
Camacho said the league is still exploring options, including renting fields from the city of Tracy, which could offer diamonds at any number of parks. Rod Buchanan, the city’s parks and community services director, said it’s a matter of scheduling another league among the city and club leagues that already use city parks.
“We’re looking at every available opportunity to try to accommodate them. However, we have a very high usage rate already,” Buchanan said, adding that leagues request field reservations well in advance, and the city sets its schedule in mid to late fall for the following year.
“We try to give everybody what they’re asking for,” he said.
Tracy High baseball coach Vic Alkire noted that Babe Ruth leaders also approached him for suggestions, but he has little say in the matter.
Alkire did confirm that he rejected the idea of using Tracy Ball Park, between Tracy Boulevard and Bessie Avenue, as the temporary home of the Bulldogs. He said the bare dirt infield and the depth of the outfield made the field unsuitable for a Division I high school team.
He said he expected the Bulldog varsity team to use the existing large field along Lowell Avenue at Monte Vista Middle School, following some needed improvements, starting in 2013. The new diamond, which will be ready for the 2014 season, would be for the sophomore team.