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Following Backlash, Birmingham Says Youth Baseball May Not Be Canceled

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By Ryan Michaels

The Birmingham Times

Following public outcry, youth baseball for 2023 may not be canceled, according to a Monday release from the Birmingham Park and Recreation Department (PRD).

Last Thursday, Parks and Rec “decided to conclude the 2023 season” because the department had not received any of the required fees or documentation by a May 3 deadline from the 14 baseball teams, it said.

On Monday, following media reports and public outcry, the department said the deadline had been extended to Thursday, May 11 for coaches to turn in the $150 per team fee and the registration/waiver forms for each player participating.

According to the city, the initial deadline for turning in fees and documentation was April 19 and then pushed back to May 3. The statement names five different dates that organizations were sent information about registration requirements, March 1 and 22, April 22 and 27, as well as May 1.

Some parents and coaches said they had paid “upwards of $100” to their team’s organizations, according to the city, but as of Monday, Parks and Rec maintained that it had received none of those monies.

Parents told WBRC-TV that they were blindsided by the city’s plans to cancel the season.

“One word is unfair,” Carlos Rogers, Wenonah Pirates Baseball Coach, told the station. “It’s unfair for the parents. It’s unfair for the community. It’s unfair for the city and most importantly, it’s unfair for the kids.”

Rogers and another coach Clarence Harris said they were surprised to hear about the news on Thursday when they showed up for a baseball game. “Nobody from Birmingham said nothing or contacted me,” said Harris.

However, Mayor Woodfin, in a Facebook post on Sunday, said his office was told coaches did not provide paperwork to the park department.

Parents say canceling the season leaves their kids without a positive outlet and too much free time.

“My baby woke up this morning thinking she had a game but she didn’t,” Sanquenetta Bailey told WBRC. “It’s like when I tell her she don’t have practice or a game, she [cries] and gets mad about it because she loves the sport now.”

“It’s more than about this city,” said Rogers, the baseball coach. “It’s about the future of this city and it starts with the youth… Nothing wrong with a kid waking up thinking, ‘I’m going to hit some home runs today.’ We’re just here to save baseball.”

Here’s the full statement this week from Birmingham Park and Recreation regarding the Baseball League:

The goal of Birmingham Park and Recreation’s baseball league is to provide a safe, fun, and fundamental programming for our youth. On March 1, March 22 and again on April 22, we provided baseball organizations with detailed information about the items and fees needed for this year’s league.

Those details included:

  • Registration forms completed and signed by parent or legal guardian
  • A team fee of $150 per team
  • League schedules
  • April 19 deadline for league fee payment ($150 per team) and registration forms for each player

We hosted a preseason tournament on April 22. On April 27, a reminder email was sent to commissioners of each organization informing them again about registration fees, registration forms and official roster forms. On May 1, another email was sent to all organizations, extending the deadline to May 3.

As of today, Birmingham Park and Recreation has not received any required documentation or fees. Due to the lack of commitment from these organizations, Birmingham Park and Recreation decided to conclude the 2023 season.

Several parents and coaches informed us that many of them had paid their organizations upwards of $100 per child to participate. As of today, however, Birmingham Park and Recreation has not received funds or forms from any organization.

Birmingham Park and Recreation remains committed to our children and the pursuit of youth sports. We will again extend our deadline and give each organization until Thursday, May 11, to turn in registration/waiver forms for each player participating. These forms are absolutely required to participate.

In return, round robin games at Cooper Green Park will be held Saturday, May 13 and Saturday, May 20. Birmingham Park and Recreation will be covering all umpire fees for games to be played. In addition, local businessman Aubrey Bushelon is donating $1,500 for our baseball program.