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    Albany school administrators torn between two quarreling sports teams

    Construction at the Cougar Jan.19 

    Albany school district spent an extra of $78,000 recently to speed up construction of the Cougar Field in an effort to resolve a dispute between two sports teams of Albany High School, but the dispute remains. Photo by Linjun Fan.

    Two sports teams in Albany High School are quarreling with each other over a playing field, both accusing school administrators of favoring the other side. They appealed one decision after another until the dispute was heard by the Albany School Board last week.

    The Baseball Team of the high school got what it wanted at first. Principal Ted Barone decided that the team use the Memorial Field when the spring season starts in early February, because its own field the Cougar Field is under construction and there is no other field suitable for baseball practice in Albany.

    The softball team, which has been using the Memorial Field in the past two decades, was asked to move to Ocean View Field, which is about a mile away from the school and is not in as good condition as the memorial field. A number of the softball players and their parents believed that the decision was unfair.

    “It’s our field. We have been playing on it. You can’t just take something away because the boys need it, ” said Amaya Fernandez, a senior player of the softball team, whose members are all girls.

    They made an appeal to Superintendent William Wong of the Albany Unified School District, who then decided that the best solution to the problem was to speed up the construction work on the baseball portion of the Cougar Field. Work on the field had originally been scheduled to be completed before the spring sports season, but was delayed due to a dispute between the school district and residents in neighboring city of El Cerrito.

    An extra amount of $78,000 was paid by the district to the field’s contractor, who would try to finish the project by Feb.15, a month earlier than what was previously scheduled.

    “The Softball (Team) will stay at the Memorial Field. Baseball will need to find a field to practice and play until the (Cougar) field is ready, ” Wong wrote in the memorandum of the decision on Dec.18.

    But Albany Baseball Boosters felt bitter at the new decision. They claimed that the decision created “unjustified and avoidable inequities” between the two teams, and wrote an appeal to the Albany School Board on Jan.1.

    “We believe that the Albany School District, not Baseball (team), has always been responsible for procuring a baseball venue equal to what is provided to softball, ” the appeal said.

    It also said that the baseball team would lose at least “nine critical days for tryouts and practice” prior to its first game, and that the team hadn’t found a suitable temporary field around Albany.

    Several dozen student players and their parents crowded the meeting room when the school board heard the dispute last Tuesday. Girls of the softball team sat in the front part of the room, while a dozen boys of the baseball team occupied the other end of the room.

    The school board voted to uphold Wong’s decision, but added that school administrators should work out a plan with the two teams to share the Memorial Field.

    “Because the baseball team has not been able to find fields, the board requests that the Superintendent prepare a plan for Baseball and Softball to share the sacrifices that would come because of a loss of field space to whatever extent possible, ” said the board in a resolution that was passed unanimously.

    But neither team is satisfied with the decision. The baseball boosters are worried that their team won’t be given equal time to use the field as the softball team, while the softball players are unwilling to share the field.

    “There is no reason why we should be having to make sacrifices for something that we are not getting anything out of it, ” said Hannah Kramer, a player of the softball team.

    The board will discuss the issue again at it’s upcoming meeting on Jan. 22.

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