Cal Ripken League fights hardball ban

PHOENIX — Despite tentative approval this week to use the city's Colver Park, South Valley Cal Ripken League organizers worry that waiting for final approval from the city's Parks Commission will prevent the league from truly finding a place to call home.

City Council members authorized a waiver of a $5 per day use fee for the park but did not rule on a request by Matt Onofrei, the league's president, to grant the league an exception to a city hardball ban.

Onofrei said the league, for now, is practicing with softer "mush balls" for practice rounds but traveling to other fields in the region, including White City, to practice with actual baseballs and to host "home" games.

Officially, final approval will be considered by the Parks Commission at 6:30 p.m. July 10.

Onofrei and a half-dozen parents formed the "11 and under" league, sponsored by Consolidated Electrical Distributors, in February to offer a level of competitive baseball not otherwise available for Phoenix-area kids.

Councilwoman Karen Jones explained to Onofrei on Monday that the Parks Commission must make the final ruling, rather than the council "going around" the commission's authority.

Onofrei said he was pleased with the council's willingness to waive the use fees but concerned with remaining limitations on his players.

By the time parks commissioners hear his request, the season will be within 10 days of ending.

"It's great we got the fees waived but we're still not practicing with real baseballs," said the coach.

"Obviously, as a not-for-profit organization, any type of financial gift really helps out. I'm just concerned we can't practice baseball in a way the kids need."

Onofrei hopes to kick off next spring with more than 200 players. On July 18, he said, he plans to ask the Talent City Council for use of ballfields there in future seasons.

"I guess for this year, we're doing the best we can. We had hoped to play a kind of homecoming game and invite the community out," he added.

"My fear is that by the time they make a decision the season is going to be over, but we just have to keep going and do the best we can do."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at

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