I have a bad feeling about Tuesday night’s city council meeting.
For those of you who are unaware, the Del Rio City Council is holding a special called meeting Tuesday beginning at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers, 109 West Broadway, to discuss the Del Rio Aviators’ request to use Roosevelt Park for professional baseball league games and discuss related scheduling issues at Roosevelt Park.
That’s the only item on the agenda and if that meeting goes the way the last two times the folks from the Aviators discussed this idea publicly then expect some fireworks.
Let me try and bring everyone up to speed.
In July a blurb appeared on www.pecosleague.com, home to the Pecos League of Professional Baseball Clubs, which mentioned Del Rio as the possible site of a team for the league’s 2011 season. The team’s original name was the Petroleros.
Later that month Andrew Dunn, commissioner of the league, visited Del Rio and met with city and community leaders to discuss the possibility of putting a team in Del Rio. Dunn toured Roosevelt Park, the city’s only public baseball park devoted to developing players after their time in Little League is exhausted, and determined that major changes would be needed at the park before the league could even consider placing a team here.
By the time Dunn arrived in Del Rio, the team’s name had switched to Bombers.
In August, city leaders, including mayor Roberto “Bobby” Fernandez, city manager Robert Eads, parks and recreation superintendent Anthony Rodriguez and others met to discuss the city’s involvement with the project. At that time, the city said it had not allocated funds for the improvement of Roosevelt Park but said it would work with a pro team, the Del Rio High School Rams baseball teams and the Del Rio Babe Ruth Baseball League to determine just how the park would be utilized.
By this time, the team was now known as the Gunslingers.
In September Ron Wrob became involved in the movement to bring a pro team to Del Rio as he was invited to a meeting of the Del Rio Chamber of Commerce’s sports committee and agreed to put up at least half of the cost to renovate Roosevelt Park, focusing primarily on moving the centerfield wall back to at least 380 feet from home plate.
In October Dunn went before the city council and provided council members with an overview of the team and its intentions for 2011. It was not an action item, but the council had several topics it needed Dunn and the team to provide more information about including liability, security, alcohol sales and other topics.
Later that month Dunn met in San Antonio with Wrob and Al Arreola Jr., Del Rio Chamber of Commerce executive director, and it was announced that Wrob would be the team’s primary financial investor for the 2011 season. With the financial part in place, all the team needed was a lease agreement with the city to play its games at Roosevelt Park in 2011.
It was also at that meeting that the team’s name became the Aviators.
On Nov. 23, Wrob went before the council to provide another update in regards to the Aviators. It was at that meeting that representatives of the Del Rio Babe Ruth Baseball League voiced the league’s concerns about scheduling both pro games and Babe Ruth games at Roosevelt Park during the 2011 summer months. It was then decided that all parties involved should meet the following week to try and hammer out a schedule that would work for everyone.
The next meeting took place Nov. 30 and involved representatives from the city, the Del Rio Aviators, Del Rio Babe Ruth Baseball and the Del Rio High School Rams baseball program. The meeting lasted about two-and-a-half hours and while progress was made between the entities involved, including the school district allowing Babe Ruth to use the Rams practice field for day games, talks stalled when it was announced that Babe Ruth baseball could not guarantee which days, if any, they would need in July should the city be named as the site for a state or regional tournament.
Because of that unknown, the Aviators and Babe Ruth league were unable to reach a suitable agreement and the meeting ended with the Aviators facing an uncertain future in Del Rio.
Now the item has been thrown back in front of the council. Unless someone magically found a baseball field with a fence at least 325 feet from home plate hiding in the overgrown weeds of their backyard, I’m not sure how an agreement can be reached in regards to the usage of Roosevelt Park.
I want pro baseball in this town just as much as the next person, but not at the cost of a youth league that has been here for decades. I saw how much the Babe Ruth league was willing to give, in terms of rescheduling and relocating games, to allow for the sharing of the park, but forcing them into making a decision that could affect their play next year and for years to come could be devastating.
That’s why I expect fireworks at tomorrow’s meeting. When people care as much about something as the volunteers who care about the Babe Ruth baseball league then you can expect the council members to get an earful before and after they make their decision.
Good luck council members. You’re going to need it.
Brian Argabright is the Del Rio News-Herald’s sports editor and has covered sports since 1996. “But That’s Just Me Talking” appears every Monday in the News-Herald. Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.