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Imperiled Ball Field Gets Extra Innings

March 20, 1987|MARK HENRY | Times Staff Writer

Donations of money, cement, sod and other supplies poured in Thursday to supporters of a Little League field at Mary Immaculate Catholic Church in Pacoima after the announcement that the field would be spared destruction, at least for now.

The announcement by a church official prompted celebrations among parents and children who opposed plans by the church to replace the 25-year-old baseball field with a parking lot.

The field was heavily damaged Wednesday by a bulldozer, which knocked down the backstop and plowed up the infield before parents rushed onto the field and persuaded workers to halt the demolition. Despite the damage, parents vowed to refurbish the field in time for Saturday's opening-day Little League ceremonies.

'Best Field' in Valley

"We are going to make the best baseball field in the whole San Fernando Valley, if not the world," said Javier Romero, spokesman for Mary Immaculate Little League.

About 40 parent volunteers were removing debris and regrading the infield Thursday morning when they learned that Bishop Armando Ochoa of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles had agreed to a moratorium on the destruction.

Romero, who spoke with Ochoa by telephone Thursday morning, said the parents cried and hugged one another when he broke the news.

Their spirits rose even higher when donations, prompted by publicity about the confrontation Wednesday, began arriving from as far as West Covina and Long Beach. A disc jockey announced that he was donating $1,000, and other individuals and businesses promised concrete blocks, a tractor, fencing and a portable backstop to replace the one ruined by the bulldozer, Romero said.

Father Joseph Battaglia, spokesman for the archdiocese, said representatives of the church, archdiocese and Little League will meet to discuss the fate of the field.

Positive Alternative

The dispute between church officials and parents who want to save the field spilled into the open on March 8, when scores of children and parents picketed the parish hall at 10390 Remick Ave. Supporters of the field have said it provides local youth with a positive alternative to street crime.

Just two weeks ago, Father Fernando Iglesias, pastor of the church, said the decision to close the field was final and supported by the archdiocese. The next day, in a letter to school parents, Mary Immaculate School Principal Marie Kronheimer said those who picketed the church were being disrespectful to the parish.

But Iglesias said he spoke with Ochoa on Thursday and was told that the Little League can continue using the field.

"Everything has been solved," Iglesias said.

In explaining the church's decision to close the field, Iglesias earlier said that problems with the use, upkeep and financial management of the field had created tension between the league and the parish. Little League officials have acknowledged management shortcomings--$2,000 was unaccounted for in 1985--but say they will do whatever the parish requires to rectify those problems.

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