By Erica Solvig
The Cincinnati Enquirer
MASON - More than 2,300 children are expected to play ball for leagues in this southern Warren County city next year. But a lack of fields is pushing them into backyards and any other available patch of green space for practices.
Now, a group of parents is looking to the city, neighboring Deerfield Township - where some of the ballplayers are from - and possibly the county and schools to get more fields.
The Mason Youth Organization is even offering upwards of $60,000 to help build them, and volunteering to help maintain them during the season.
"Keeping up with the growth was part of it, but we also lost access to some fields over the past year," said Jay Tepe, president of the MYO, which teamed with Mason Knothole and Mason Fastpitch to form the Mason Diamond Action Group.
"We have kids that don't get as many times at bat. It's simply taking away from what should be the ideal baseball game."
The action group estimates that next season, baseball, softball, and T-ball players will have 11 to 13 fields to use, meaning about 25 percent less field time than they had in 2000.
Ideally, the group wants 17 more fields for next season; realistically, it's hoping for at least four.
What it doesn't want is to take away fields from soccer and other sports, Tepe said.
The city of Mason is nearly out of space in its parks, but is trying to fit two more diamonds in at Heritage Oak Park, City Manager Scot Lahrmer said.
The city is looking at how it will affect traffic and if there is enough parking.
The problem is that with a project of this size, the city will have to bid it out, even though some of the money might come from the organization, Lahrmer said. That will take time, and parents fear it might mean the project will not be done for the 2004 season.
And in the future, the city might have to look to other property it owns for fields.
The action group is hoping Deerfield Township will provide at least one diamond at Cottell Park.
"The fields are way overutilized to the point that we've had to look at the surrounding communities," said Bernie Kingsolver of Mason, who coaches his two sons' baseball teams and has a daughter who plays softball.
"Kids don't care whether they're playing in an extravagant stadium or just in a field with a backstop. They just care that they're playing."
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