- Last Updated on 12:10 AM 04/16/10
- BY Sonny Riddle
A standing room only crowd of more than 50 coaches, players, parents and supporters of Halifax Dixie Youth Baseball (HDYB) packed Halifax Town Hall on Tuesday night for Halifax Town Council’s regular monthly meeting.
A total of 10 persons spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, asking council to let the youth baseball league continue to play its games at the ball field on the grounds of the former Halifax Elementary School.
Halifax resident and former HDYB Coach Conway Harris told council a large number of children have come through the baseball program in Halifax, and he would hate to see the league be forced to move out of the town.
“I got a lot more out of it than I put in it,” Harris said. “Let’s let the kids play ball and have a good time.”
“That field has been dedicated and named for Skeeter Duffer, who gave his time and energy to the league,” said James Medley. “We need this facility for the youth of our community at its present location.
I think it would be a dishonor to the Duffer name to make it (the league) move off a field that has been dedicated to a man who dedicated most of his life to our youth.”
Raymond Duffer, son of the late Skeeter Duffer, read letters to council from two members of the 1999 Halifax Dixie Youth team that went to the Dixie World Series as state champions of Virginia.
Justin Armistead, who is currently the director of baseball operations at the University of Virginia, wrote, “If everyone keeps the youth as their primary focus, the decision to keep Halifax Elementary School baseball field open is an easy one…I have had no greater experience than playing baseball for Halifax County Dixie Youth. It would be a great disservice to our community to deprive anyone of this opportunity in the future.”
Nathan Clements wrote, “The bottom line is that this debate is fueled by a select few who have no idea how much this field means to the community, and personally I don’t think they care. In times of economic struggle, it is only fair to let this community continue to enjoy the best sports venue in Halifax County. Please take into consideration that this field is not just dirt and grass to the thousands who have played, coached or watched baseball here; it is our field of dreams.”
Larry Blanks said he has been involved with HDYB since 1995. “I have seen firsthand the change in kids who later become adults, with the difference it makes in their lives,” he said. “Let’s just remember, we’re thinking about more than baseball, because these kids are our future.”
Randy Moore, vice-president of the HDYB minor league, said he has been involved with the league since 1978 when he was a player, and he agrees with others who spoke before council. “This is not a game; it helps keep the youth out of trouble,” he explained.
League President Barry Moore said the field has been around so long that kids, their parents and even their grandparents played on that ball field. He said if the league is forced to move, it cannot get it done in a year.
“We have to have time to get other facilities prepared so when we leave we’ll be going right to a field, because without a field, Halifax Dixie Youth Baseball would cease to exist,” he said.
Abby McBride cited the state of the economy as a sound reason for leaving the baseball league where it is. “The county is so broke, we already have a ball field. Why would you even entertain the idea of spending the money to build a new one when there’s already one there,” she said.
She also said the league has tried to be a good neighbor to those who live near the ball field. “Many nights I’ve been out there picking up garbage with a flashlight because we try to accommodate the citizens by shutting our lights off as soon as the game is over,” McBride explained. “We pick up trash with headlights and flashlights, and we do what we can do to keep it clean. We try our best, we just ask that the citizens work with us.”
Kim Parker presented a letter supporting the ball field remaining where it is and signed by 16 business representatives and owners of businesses in the Town of Halifax. She also said she lives across the street from the ballpark and has never had problems with the noise or lights from the ball field.
“Before our children were old enough to play, we went over there and watched other people’s children,” she said. “We like it being here, and we want it to remain across the street.”
Halifax attorney Don Bagwell, who lives near the ball field, said he has mixed feelings because a ball field is not good in a residential section. But he said he enjoys sitting on his back porch listening to the sounds of the ball games from the ball field. He also described those who attend the games as courteous, never having had problems with trash thrown in his yard. He said he is sensitive to his neighbors who are bothered by the lights shining in their homes, but the ball field is not a problem for him.
Dr. Charles Parker, a neighbor of the ball field, said the ball field is an asset to the community. “You can see this crowd, and you can see what it means to the people who live in the town and around the town,” he said. “The county has no money, the town has no money, there is no alternative site, so for the time being this is all Dixie Baseball has.”
Parker also cited values learned by the children who play ball in the HDYB league. “I think it would be a tremendous shame if the town did not go on record stating that ‘for the time being, we would like to keep the field as it is and allow them to use it.’ Because they’re not getting this lesson anywhere else,” he said. “I don’t believe they’re getting those lessons at school. I think it’s one of the greatest assets the town of Halifax has.”
Vice-mayor Dick Moore, who was presiding in the absence of Mayor Leon Plaster, told the HDYB supporters that town council is not trying to force the league out of business.
“When this request was made, I think most of us assumed something could be worked out at the Bethune Complex,” Moore explained. “However I was told since then the Bethune complex has been overcrowded, and it (the league) could not move there.”
Moore said a committee probably would be appointed during the joint meeting with the county Monday night consisting of representatives of the town, county and HDYB to work on details related to the issue.
Councilman Jack Dunavant echoed the vice-mayor, saying it is not the intention of council to force Dixie Youth Baseball out of the town. “We have simply said we need to look for an alternative site,” he said. “The reason we say that is our town ordinances do not allow ball fields in an R-1 district, and that’s the situation we have. So it is incumbent upon us to try to solve this issue to the benefit of all.”
Dunavant said he would like to see a world-class facility constructed that would enable the league to host statewide tournaments. “If we all work together that will happen,” he added. “Hopefully you all will work with us, and I know the county will, and it will happen,” he said.
“We don’t want you to think that we’re the bad guys and trying to throw you out. We’re not going to do that, that’s not going to happen,” Dunavant added. “So let’s just see if we can make something out of this that we’ll all be proud of for the future, and we’ll work with you any way we can.”
In other business, council unanimously adopted a resolution approving modifications to the $500,000 general obligation public improvement bond, series 2006. Those modifications extend the final maturity date of the bond to no later than Dec. 31, 2025 and change the interest rate to one not exceeding 6.98 percent per year.
Council also set the first reading of its proposed $880,294 fiscal year 2010-2011 budget for its May 11 meeting.
Town manager Carl Espy updated council on the town’s request to VDOT for funding Highway 501/VA Scenic Byway 360 safety improvements. Espy presented a letter from VDOT District Administrator Robert Cary regarding the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s public hearing scheduled for June 3 at Dublin.
Espy said the town should have its draft request ready for approval prior to that public hearing.
Under old business, Espy told council the town attorney is drafting a letter to VDOT requesting donation of the Kings Bridge Road right-of-way for the Banister River Gateway Project. He said a working draft was not available in time for Tuesday’s meeting, but one should be ready by the end of the week.
Espy suggested putting the letter on the agenda for the joint meeting with the county and town of South Boston scheduled for Monday night, April 19. Councilman Tommy Reagan put Espy’s suggestion in the form of a motion, and council unanimously approved the motion, with Mayor Plaster and Councilman Holt Evans absent.