Speaker: 2 obstacles blocking return of youth baseball in Baker

Parents unwilling to volunteer and a baseball field too small for players older than 11 are the two biggest obstacles preventing a comeback of youth baseball in Baker, a Little League organizer told the City Council on Tuesday night.

Former Baker Little League President Hazel Mitchell said that since the league shut down two years ago, she has tried to round up volunteers for activities that include coaching teams, maintaining the fields and handling concessions, but that she hasn’t had much luck.

The league doesn’t require a fee to play, which places most of the league’s day-to-day operations under the responsibility of parents. “I’m hoping and praying that we can get this up again,” Mitchell said. “The kids are out there, they’re willing to come back.”

The city still has rights to the charter granting the right to play Little League baseball in Baker. But Mitchell said that if baseball doesn’t start up again this year, the charter probably would be withdrawn.

The Baker Little League consisted of 28 teams in 2010, and was set to field 13 teams in 2011, before a lack of volunteers shut down the league.

Council members Joyce Burges and Norman “Pete” Heine said many of their constituents expressed a desire to get the league back up and running, especially since it serves as a positive activity to get youths off the streets, they said.

“Everybody is so busy nowadays that they just don’t have time,” Mitchell said.

The other setback involves the size of the field, which must be expanded if the league wants to include teams with players older than 11, Mitchell said.

She estimated that it would cost the city $15,000 to restart the league, but that expanding the fields for the older players would cost more.

Other matters taken up by the council included:

GRANTS: The city received a $30,000 grant from the state’s Local Government Assistance Program to renovate the restrooms inside the city’s municipal building, Mayor Harold Rideau said.

The council also decided to apply for a grant that would fund upgrades to faulty water well equipment that poses a health threat to some of the city’s water system customers.

The state’s Community Water Enrichment Fund would provide the grant, which would help pay for the installation and replacement of well equipment on Debra Drive and Lavey Lane.

PROPERTY EROSION: The council decided to begin an inventory of erosion-related property complaints filed by city residents after Councilman Robert Young voiced concern about erosion involving a ditch in the Buffwood area.

Several council members, including Charles Vincent and Heine, said they’ve received similar complaints, leading to Heine’s proposal of an inventory.

The mayor said that unless funding became available to lay down concrete along the ditches, there isn’t much the council can do.

“We’re not getting all the severance taxes I thought we were going to get to handle these problems,” Vincent said.

CITY WORKERS: Heine expressed his desire for a city ordinance that would force the city to hire employees only from Baker, excluding applicants from outside locations.

“The number of employees we have in this city — it will blow your mind — something like 70 or 80 percent do not live in Baker,” Heine said.

He referenced a similar residency ordinance New Orleans enacted years ago, which was reinstated on Jan. 1 following a hiatus since Hurricane Katrina.

Rideau said he would look into the issue.