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Going to Bat for More Girls' Softball Sites

There's a need for 27 more fields. Councilman Mark Murphy believes Yorba Park might work.

August 28, 2000|RENEE MOILANEN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The players in the Orange-Villa Park Girls' Softball League don't even blink anymore when a stray ball from one field rolls into the middle of another team's game.

Likewise, girls in the Central Orange Bobby Sox softball organization know to watch out for gaping holes in the grass and the hard, packed field dirt that stings when they slide into home plate.

And all girls' softball players in Orange understand that they must sign up for a team early or risk being turned away, the inevitable consequence of growing demand and too few resources.

With park space scarce in Orange, girls' softball leagues could be just another group clamoring for larger and more game fields. But they have a heavy hitter on their side: City Councilman Mark Murphy has taken up their cause.

Murphy said he plans to urge the city to create more softball fields on vacant land. "It's a component of youth sports we have to take care of," he said. "Girls' organizations need to have quality fields."

Park space and playing fields are a hot commodity in Orange, which needs 182 acres of recreational land just to keep up with demand, according to a park study completed last fall.

Nearly every youth sports league needs more field space. But baseball and soccer are in particularly bad straits; a total of nearly 150 acres of practice space would be required to meet the need, the report said.

Girls' softball teams need about 27 additional practice fields.

The city is working on a plan to maximize use of park facilities, from picnic tables to playgrounds.

Murphy insists that youth sports be at the top of the list, with particular attention paid to girls' athletics.

Although Murphy has no daughters who play softball, he said he has long been a champion of all youth athletics.

He said he doesn't "want to see kids who want to play sports have to be turned away" or split time with other organizations.

That's precisely what happens for the Bobby Sox, said league President Lorrie Perez.

In one year, the girls' league enrollment soared by 150 players. With only two playing fields, the Bobby Sox had to turn away a couple of dozen girls, Perez said. She worries that the emphasis on boys' Little League and the exploding enrollment in soccer programs may take away resources from her own growing organization.

"We are a little concerned that boys and soccer get everything," Perez said. "We're feeling like we're getting left behind."

Murphy's push for softball playing fields comes at a time when cities are paying more attention to girls' sports and the often substandard conditions in which teams play. Last fall, Los Angeles settled a lawsuit with a girls' softball league, which claimed its players had to use inferior fields while boys' teams enjoyed prime playing turf.

Murphy has suggested that Yorba Park, an 8 1/2-acre vacant piece of land, would be an ideal spot for girls' softball. Plans are in the works for a two-acre dog park at that location.

Councilman Mike Alvarez, however, said that it's too soon to tell where or for whom the city should build additional fields. "We need to take a good, hard look at it," he said.

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Renee Moilanen may be reached at (714) 966-4674.

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