Major League? Oakland can’t even get Little League fields going.

Update 5/14The Bushrod field project could be back on if the City can take care of the red tape, according to the A’s.


Over the years the A’s have worked with the Good Tidings Foundation and numerous Little League and community groups to rehabilitate baseball fields all over the East Bay. The high profile projects have included Rickey Henderson Field in Oakland and Dennis Eckersley Field in Fremont. Since then they done work on one field a year, lately with the help of PG&E and always with hundreds of volunteers. Understanding that the projects would be funded by donations and the work done by volunteers, it should be an easy task for cities to simply issue permits to clear the way for the rehab, right?

Not when the City of Oakland is involved.

Matier and Ross report today that the City has bungled a plan to fix up a field at Bushrod Park in North Oakland. The field is used primarily by North Oakland Little League (NOLL), which spearheaded the project.

First the problem was that the field had to be maintained by the City, but they didn’t have enough money to do it. Nor could they allow volunteers to do it because of labor concerns.

Then they couldn’t expedite permits for installation of a sprinkler system.

Then they had problems with the field’s Little League size, citing flexibility concerns.

The City’s Parks department at least owned up to the delays, asking for more time. Frustrated, the A’s looked elsewhere and found a willing partner in Richmond, whose MLK Park needed work. For now, NOLL will have to apply for next year’s effort. Maybe Oakland can figure out its part by then.

If you thought that was bad, consider the possibility that another North Oakland field (also named after Rickey Henderson) that was previously rehabbed in this program may get repurposed. This time it’s Oakland Unified School District with the brilliant plan, as they moved Oakland International High School there (good) but want to replace the grass field with artificial turf (terrible) for year-round soccer. If this happens, NOLL and Oakland Tech will be short two fields. The road to hell really is paved with good intentions.

And it isn’t just Oakland falling down when it comes to bureaucratic nightmares. The City of San Jose famously spent thirteen years figuring out where to put a huge softball complex. They only figured it out in February. At least they didn’t burn any volunteers or community groups in the process.

27 thoughts on “Major League? Oakland can’t even get Little League fields going.

  1. No matter what anyone’s agenda or POV is on the A’s stadium situation, this is simply a bad look for Oakland itself. Something this basic should never fail. These sorts of things are basically slam dunks for communities and teams involved with the good PR that comes from it.

  2. There’s nothing too basic to fail in Oakland – see long running dog park controversy

  3. It’s obvious why this can’t get done in Oakland; it’s LW’s fault….

  4. It won’t get it done as long as Oakland’s position is “You have no choice but to build a ballpark with your own money in Oakland and we’ll kick you out of the current stadium in two years if you won’t agree to that in writing.”

  5. How are there ‘labor concerns’ with volunteers who want to help maintain their own kids baseball field?

  6. @Dan – City employees have contracts to maintain city property including parks and fields. Outsourcing that work for any reason would lead to labor issues. Although, it would lead to some entertaining council meetings. During the last round of negotiations with public employees some of them showed up to the council meetings with rally towels. It was quite the spectacle.

  7. Great PR for the union then. No you can’t voluntarily maintain your own child’s field, you have to pay us 150% over value to do it! And they wonder why the public has turned on public sector unions so roundly…

  8. The field is Oakland’s not NOLL’s. I’m not going to defend Oakland City Hall for delaying the sprinkler permits etc., but having seen Alameda Babe Ruth and Little League do everything they can to make Alameda fields “theirs” and strictly “theirs”, I get the feeling there is a bigger back story here with Oakland’s fields than just City Hall incompetence. Not that there isn’t a need to give Oakland’s fields a makeover.

    I’ll stop now before going off on an angry tangent.

  9. SJ figured out how to get around the union issue with their parks and rec groups. The Rose Garden, which I believe won top national honors, is maintained by volunteers because city staff wasn’t able to properly maintain it due to reductions. It faced losing its accredition—the volunteers do an amazing job with the park today–absolutely pristine.

    On another note, figure the A’s are also investing in South Bay LL fields/facilities–note that they have their logo on the scoreboard in Los Gatos LL Majors field.

  10. @GoA’s
    I am from and live in Los Gatos, and you’re absolutely right. They do a great job of maintaining the LL fields with partnerships and community involvement. The AAA field near downtown is also super nice. I played on all those fields growing up. They weren’t bad back then, but they’re much nicer now.

  11. My son is in the North Valley Little League in north San Jose and they have their own riding mower. The city can only mows the lawn once every 2-3 weeks so the little league does it. No issues here.

  12. As long as Oakland doesn’t build another Mount Davis on these Little League fields, I’d say they’re handling this situation marvelously.

  13. Muppet/GoA’s: I think the phrase you’re searching for is public/private partnerships. The smart cities are doing this (along with other things like sharing some jobs, such as IT, amongst several cities), others are continuing with the old model of doing it all themselves.

    OTOH, if a kid got hurt on the Oakland field, who gets sued, the City or the volunteer org? Probably the City who is presumed to both have the deeper pockets and, as property owner, primary responsibility.

  14. @Briggs
    It still makes me sad to remember what a nice view the Coliseum had before Mt Davis.

  15. Baynativeguy: If a kid got hurt on the Oakland field, it would all depend on how he got hurt. In little league there are waiver forms you have to sign. If it was not during a little league game and some kids were just out there playing? I don’t know how you could sue the city for your kid hurting himself. If you were walking across the street and missed the curb and fell, would you sue the city?

  16. Dkim, not to mention that the kid will likely play on that field whether it’s rehabbed and taken care of or not. And if it’s not taken care of, they’re more likely to get themselves hurt.

  17. Speaking of minor league, I took my mother to see the San Jose Giants over the weekend for Mothers Day. Unfortunately the A’s are no longer an option for my folks until the fix their security theater problems, fix the sewage issue for good, improve the food or alternatively to those move to a new park. Big Giants have and will never be an option for my parents who would pack the trucks themselves if it would get the Big Giants out of the Bay Area.

    All in all she had a good time as the little Giants are always entertaining like MiLB is known for and their food is always great. But sitting there it got me thinking. I’d never actually looked at the stats, but after the game I did. San Jose is the largest city with the lowest level pro baseball team in the US with a Class A Adv team. Only one city is larger with no MLB team, San Antonio who have a AA team. Just thought that was an interesting statistic both in general and in context of where the A’s would like to or could conceivably end up.

  18. DKim,

    Would I sue the city? No. My first instinct though when I trip is to remind myself to pay more attention to what I’m doing. Do others? Heck yes they do. People sue cities for stumbling along sidewalks all the time. They sue cities when they get in a car accident, alleging the roadway design or lack of signage, or poor lighting or whatever caused the incident. People sue the cities for all manner of things and they do it often because the cities are perceived to have $$$ and often they will settle so it goes away.

    For instance, in Oakland maybe 5-10 years ago, there was a fight between the Public Works department and one of the councilmember’s. It seems the Public Works folks planned to chop down hundreds of street trees in this council member’s district. Why? Because the roots from the trees were raising the sidewalks and too many people were suing the city for tripping over them.

    Believe me, there isn’t a city in the nation that doesn’t consider their liability and exposure to potential lawsuits when they consider undertaking almost anything. They’d be fools not to.

  19. @Dan: That’s interesting. A historical consideration I’ve always thought was interesting too is the following: By the time Charlie Finley moved the A’s from KC to Oakland for the 1968 season, San Jose was already a solidly larger city than Oakland and was still growing very rapidly. However, Oakland was probably the more well known city on a national level.


    Oh, we’re number 1.

    Going to the game in 12 hours on 2-buck chucks. Me and my buddy got 4 tickets between the 2 of us. Sierra Nevada 4-Way IPA 12 pack. Double the tailgate, double the fun.

    I wouldn’t begrudge San Jose a franchise. How does The San Jose Royals sound?

  21. Why would they rename the A’s to the Royals?

  22. First place A’s – 11, White Sox – 0, 39% full (and that’s probably an exaggeration) on a night when I think the parking was free. Must be Lew Wolff’s fault.

  23. New Braves ballpark renderings online, you studz. Boring. Populous have given up on making an artistic statement with each ballpark.

  24. Wow that is a very plain jane stadium. Which is ridiculous for the Braves who are leaving a plain jane stadium as it is…

  25. Credit to the LL coach in the story who pulled no punches with Quan and Director of Parks—funny how Gammon claimed the field was just fine and didn’t need any rehab and this coach identifies it as a safety risk. Gammon, as an Oakland only promoter is blinded by his own need to defend ineptness at all costs–whether it be for LL rehab or building a ballpark in Oakland.

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