Redlands Community Field shut down due to COVID-19 pandemic

Fields at nearby Redlands Community Field, which has been shut down in recent weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Also shut down was the 2020 baseball and softball season schedules, which has led to a few parents’ complaints that registration money should be returned.

There are rumblings around Redlands Community Field, the baseball-softball-football facility on the city’s north side, that are beginning to sound like an outcry for public awareness.

Allegations that Redlands Baseball For Youth has used registration money from parents of more than 1,000 softball-baseball players are being lodged against the organization.

Some parents, including those that stretch into East Highlands Ranch, want that money returned.

One parent, Nancy Smith, wrote in an email: “RBY needs to be audited and their behavior needs to be discussed publicly so that we can see change.”

“The question is,” she writes, “where is the money for a season we were promised?”

Said longtime treasurer Dave Eason: “We spent $170,000 before the season started.”

Here’s a list of money spent, according to Eason:

• $69,000 on candy, dispersed to parents for fundraiser sales

• $55,000 on uniform packages to suit up 1,150 ballplayers

• $36,000 went to fields 5, 6 and 7 for new dugouts. More money went to fencing on field 1

• $10,000 on insurance.

Eason, 80, has spent 37 years as RBY treasurer. In military terms, which is where he spent his career as an accountant, Eason is the equivalent of a 1-star general.

His side passion has been volunteering at RBY.

“I’ve stayed on for that long,” he said, “because we have so many new members on the board. I felt I needed to stay behind to protect the interests of the kids.”

Eason says it’s “a small handful of parents who want their money back.

“As long as I’ve been doing this, there’s always a few people who complain every year ⎯ no matter what you do.”

Complaints may be a little different this year, perhaps surrounded by the COVID-19 element that forced the cancellation of the 2020 baseball-softball season.

Eason says there is about $104,000 remaining in RBY’s treasury.

There’s a committee, he said, that is studying whether or not to return a portion of those signup fees. It won’t be much, said Eason.

“We need that money,” he said.

In some cases, requests were made to carry this season’s fees over to next season.

“We’ll have no money to start our season,” said Eason, “if we did that.”

Eason also said San Bernardino County health officials wanted to see improvements in snack bar kitchen areas.

“The county required us to upgrade the kitchen,” he said. Part of that upgrade included the purchase of a new refrigeration unit at $2,000.

“We have problems in the snack bar every year,” said Eason. “Parents are supposed to volunteer, but they don’t show up. The snack bar manager has to hire people.”

It’s an added cost; $15-an-hour, which might go up to $25-an-hour, he said.

Signup costs could be higher, said Eason.

“Orange County leagues charge $175 to $200 per player. Here, we try to keep it low. That shouldn’t be a problem with people who have money. Plus, we have about 100 kids on scholarship.”

On candy sales, Eason said, “$14,000 of that money is still outstanding.”

In other words, money still hasn’t been turned in.

The organization’s own numbers:

Signup costs: $105 to $130, based on age.

Candy sales fundraiser: $120 sold by each player.

Community sponsorship: $250 per team.

It amounts to about $250 per child to play ball. Not-to-be forgotten expenses: Baseball shoes, mitts, batting gloves, plus various other equipment, which could include catcher’s gear.

Throw this in: If some families had more than one child playing, those amounts are doubled or even tripled.

Snack bar revenue, which was unavailable this year because of the shutdown, customarily offers huge assets to RBY.

“You need it for your reserve,” said Eason. “No one wants to listen to all this.”

Arguments, said Smith in her letter, are that RBY is saving money by not engaging in normal expenses. She specified insurance, security, annual PONY fees, umpires, pizza parties, utility costs and end-of-the-season all-stars for all levels.

Eason said that PONY fees and insurance were already paid.

For good measure: Charges that private teams ⎯ not affiliated with RBY ⎯ were playing games against other cities. Those charges include allegations that some RBY board members and its coaches were using their positions to allow such games.

“Very upsetting,” says Smith, a parent who vented in a letter to various news outlets including ABC7 Eyewitness News and Fox 11 LA, “because our money for PONY baseball was taken and funds the maintenance of the fields, yet our kids are not allowed to play.”

Not true, said Eason.

It was Sunday ball.

“We have no control over the fields on Sunday. That becomes the city’s responsibility. There aren’t any board members coaching a travel ball team.”

Reports are that police, following mandates that public fields be shut down during COVID-19 measures, drove a patrol unit onto home plate.

Additionally, Redlands city trucks were reportedly parked at home plate in order to keep those fields from being used.

It’s hard to play games when home plate is covered by an automobile.

Through all disputes, Eason says, “We’ll be all right.

“As long as our fundraisers work and our numbers [of signups] stay the same, we’ll be in good shape.”

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