Parks and Rec expect squeeze play on ball fields for travel teams

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By Brian Slattery

BOLIVIA—Commissioners may have to decide who’s on first at county baseball fields.

At the county budget retreat last Wednesday, parks and recreation director Jim Pryor said an issue is arising at county parks where travel baseball teams want more field access.

He said he began to see travel teams becoming an issue five years ago, but it appeared to be squashed due to the economy.

“The economy must be picking up because (the issue is back),” Pryor said.

Pryor said they used to only deal with the recreation league baseball teams.

“But now if (a parent) doesn’t like a team or a coach, they form their own travel team, or they don’t want their good players playing with the bad players.”

Pryor said the parks and recreation department has agreements for the use of the baseball fields with the schools and with the recreation leagues.

“The schools and the leagues have priority, but we do have rentals,” he said. “Travel ball is on the side of rentals.”

Commissioner Marty Cooke asked if he created his own travel team would be treated as a team from outside the county.

Pryor said they are treated like anyone who doesn’t have an agreement with the county to provide fields.

But he said they are now getting complaints from travel teams that think their use of the fields is more important than others.

“We’ve told them these are open parks, they are first come, first served but if they want the fields lined off, they must rent them,” Pryor said.

But he said they are hearing from teams that say their players are Brunswick County residents, whose taxes go to support the parks, so they should have use of the fields.

“I expect it to get ugly here,” Pryor said.

Commissioners chairman Phil Norris said the agreement between parks and recreation and the school system is a “win/win,” but he asked if the recreation leagues pay for field use in their agreement.

“We are still in the era where we take care of our leagues. The big cities charge; we are still unique,” Pryor said.

Commissioner Scott Phillips asked if Pryor gets complaints about that.

Pryor said the general public seems to know the recreation leagues get preferential treatment.

He added that players in the recreation leagues are solely Brunswick County residents while the travel teams can have a lot of Brunswick players, but not all are residents.

But they are still hearing that because the players’ parents pay taxes in the county, they want their child to have access to the fields.

Pryor expects the same issue will come up down the road with travel football teams.

“If it gets bad, have (county manager) Marty (Lawing) put it on the agenda and we’ll vote on it,” commissioner Pat Sykes said.

While discussing the parks and recreation budget, Pryor said the biggest addition would be incurring the cost of overtime for Brunswick County Sheriff’s deputies at competitive events.

“We need to have an officer on duty,” Pryor said. “It helps to stop things right there if we do not have to wait for a sheriff’s deputy if a 300-pound guy wants to kill somebody.”

Pryor added he does not anticipate major changes in the budget for 2013-14.

“We will do the most we can with the resources we have,” Pryor said.


Brian Slattery is a staff writer for The Brunswick Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or bslattery@brunswickbeacon.com.