CHICAGO (CBS) — Little League baseball on Chicago’s West Side is more than a game – it’s a safe place with strong adult role models.
But as CBS 2’s Jim Williams reported Tuesday evening, the coaches of a league in Garfield Park say their efforts are being hampered by the state government bureaucracy.READ MORE: Major League Baseball Lockout Officially In Progress
Jerry Mack and Frank Brim were star baseball players in their youth. They looked around Garfield Park 20 years ago and saw that something was missing.
“No one was playing baseball in Garfield Park,” Mack said, “and it was our mission and our duty to figure that we should come in and give back, and start it back up.”
So they co-founded a youth baseball program in the park. Kids of all ages play.
“First of all, it gives them an opportunity to see what family looks like – functional families – and gives them an opportunity to come out and learn some things about discipline,” said Brim.
In a community racked by gun violence such as the area around Garfield Park, baseball is a safe haven.
“It means that they’re not forgotten,” said league president Nadine Bass. “We want to show them, hey, we care, and we don’t just care on the weekend. We care all day, every day.”
But their field needs lots of work. Rain can keep the kids sidelined for days.
“Whenever it rains, it floods. Our children can’t play,” Bass said. “They can’t even practice. They have nowhere to practice.”READ MORE: COVID Test Confusion After Suburban Family Believes They Got False Result from University Of Illinois SHIELD Program
Twelve years ago, Bass says state funds were allocated to renovate the field – perhaps even to install an artificial surface to replace what is a muddy swamp after a downpour.
Still, after all this time, no work has been done.
“We’ve gotten so many different bounce-arounds,” Bass said. “Everyone’s pointing fingers everywhere. Nothing has been to the point where we’re getting any solid information.”
Now, you may say it’s just a rainout, it’s just a muddy field – so what’s the big deal? But the coaches say it is a big deal. Every day their players are not on the field, they’re somewhere else.
“If we don’t have them, then someone else gets them,” Mack said, “and they’re not instilling that positive influence, and they’re not guiding them in the right direction.”
The 2021 season is over. They’re hoping for better conditions next year.
“We want our players to feel like every baseball player – safe at home,” said Brim.
On Tuesday afternoon, a spokeswoman with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity told us the agency is, in her words, “engaged with the local elected state official to support the project.”MORE NEWS: Jussie Smollett Trial: Defense Attorney Calls For Mistrial And Accuses Judge Of Lunging At Her; Judge Denies Claims And Motion
We’ve reached out to Illinois state Sen. Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago), who represents the area, and had not heard back late Tuesday.