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Put kids first in field decisions

Mark and I would like an equal opportunity to address the issues regarding the sports complex facility and Title IX concerns brought up by the softball community.

Title IX protects both boys’ and girls’ programs within public and private school systems. The baseball program currently has zero school district fields available for use. The softball program currently has two school district fields for use. The reason the boys have zero fields currently available to them is because the baseball field is currently under repair. For several years, the baseball program has used the field behind Superior High School for practice and games. The baseball field lacked the basics such as outfield fences, dug outs, Porta-Potties, benches and so on. The baseball program has patiently waited for the field to be improved. During this time the softball team has enjoyed having two softball fields to play on, practice and use at their will.

Imagine our dismay when we were informed that there is a Title IX complaint regarding the current renovations to the baseball field. In our opinion, the school district is in violation of the Title IX provision with the baseball team as plaintiff, not the softball team.

We have concerns with the current plan to make the boys baseball field into a baseball/softball field. The raised pitching mound required for baseball is of particular concern. The process involved to install and remove the “removable” pitching mound after each practice and game is particularly onerous to the baseball program. This does not even begin to address other issues such as removable fences, baseball/softball plates which are at different distances, base lines, distance for the back stop, to name a few. When we researched “removable” pitching mounds we were unable find any programs that use this approach as it is not a practical undertaking. The “removable” pitching mound has several separate parts that are heavy and cumbersome to move. To say this would be easy for the baseball program to do on a daily basis is not accurate.

Another important consideration is that fact that the baseball backstop is 60 feet behind home plate and the foul lines, while the softball backstop is only 30 feet behind home plate and foul lines. This would change the dynamic of every softball game with regard to wild pitches and errant throws to first, third and home plate. To be compliant with WIAA regulations, temporary fencing would have to be erected for every game that completely encircles the field, 30 feet off the foul lines and behind home plate. Also, the outfield fences would have to be temporary because the baseball fences are much further. This is approximately 700 feet of temporary fencing installed and taken down before and after every game.

As the coaches, players and parents have experienced this past spring, when baseball and softball have to share the gym for practices; those practices don’t get over until after 7 p.m. That can lead to 12-hour days at the school when you factor in that the players often have to meet before school for team training. When a student has advanced classes, there is very little time to do the several hours of homework that is also required. Our son was often up until past 11 p.m. to complete his schoolwork.

We propose the softball team use the football field with temporary lines for their home games as UMD softball currently does until the two softball fields are clear for use.

Use the money saved from not purchasing a “removable” pitching mound, removable fences, and base plates to purchase black dirt to level the south softball field and other affordable improvements, with the hope that at some point in the future the softball team has a field by the baseball field. Perhaps by then the softball governing body, the WIAA, will allow softball to use turf for district competitions as they currently do not.

Title IX also addresses the issue of unequal spending, which at this time seems unavoidable. Unequal aggregate expenditures on separate teams does not constitute noncompliance with Title IX.

Under Title IX, sports fields are required to be competitive. They are not required to be comparable, as has been stated by some.

We close with the thought that one field cannot and should not support four teams. That would be a poor option for both the softball and baseball programs. Please put the kids first.