By Monica Stark
C.K. McClatchy athletes and coaches who came to the fields for routine practice on Wednesday, Aug. 21 were shocked and upset to find Sacramento City Unified School District staff tearing down a large batting cage they helped build. It was a quick three-hour destruction compared to the lengthy two months it took volunteers to put it up.
“I was irritated because we – the district – are already short on money anyway,” said pitcher Noah Tait, a junior classman. “Last year, we finally got it up and it’s sad it had to come down, especially because the baseball program was kind of building.”
District spokesperson Gabe Ross cites safety and ADA compliance issues and said they are working with the school on a plan to properly replace the equipment as soon as possible.
But, “seeing is believing” to assistant coach Steve Correa. “I don’t think it should have come down in the first place anyway.”
The structure that was built at McClatchy is not ADA compliant nor was the project approved by the Division of the State Architect, which is required of structures of this size, Ross said. “Should a child be injured by any structure not certified by the state, our board members are held personally liable. That’s why we had to take it down,” he said.
He said the equipment is not being destroyed. “Standard practice is to salvage materials and possibly make them available to the school for future projects,” Ross said.
Teammates said the batting cage was an instrumental tool in helping them become Metro League Champions. They said they could get up to six people in there, hitting balls at any given time. They are concerned about how competitive they might be without it, so they plan on getting a petition going to deliver to the district.
“How can you expect to compete with these schools in the suburbs that have money and good facilities and then we just have a field to practice on,” catcher Ryan Tarnasky said.
Without the large batting cage, they have just a smaller cage that’s used for warm-ups between the pitcher and the catcher, Correa said.
During practice time the fields at CKM are quite busy with children of all ages with the McClatchy Junior Football League, for instance. “This whole area is packed. So space is limited,” Correa said.
Every year, the students have put new nets up on the batting cage, so balls couldn’t get out. “Balls have never gotten hit out of there. It’s as safe as it gets,” they said.
Ross tells a different story. He said the school has been aware that the structure had to come down since May. “So my understanding is that it wasn’t a surprise to the principal, AD or baseball coach. The maintenance team may not have communicated the specific schedule of taking it down this week, which was an oversight. As you can imagine, their schedule is very fluid with the number of projects on their plate over the summer. Nevertheless, it was not a surprise to the school employees that the structure had to come down,” Ross said.
Correa said he wonders why after so long did it take for the district to decide that. “We’ve had no problems with safety,” he said.
Right next to the batting cage sits a plaque that reads: “In memory of Raymond Jang, Grandfather of 2012 All Metro Player and Graduate Alex Jang. Go Lions!”
Ross said the plaque will remain in place and was not damaged.
Correa said the Jang family donated about $10,000 for the materials of the batting cage. Alex Jang is now studying at Occidental College.
He was an excellent player at CKM, Correa said.
Charles Chan, the 2005 past president of Pocket Little League and current Treasurer for the entire District 7, works for all the greater Sacramento area little league players now.
He said he can’t speak to the use of CKM’s facilities but he’s familiar with the Jang family.
“We lived in the same block in the old downtown neighborhood after immigrating from the same part of the world. Generations later playing together in Pocket LL, my daughter (Alexandra Chan) currently is on the U.S. Naval Academy team. … Thus for me, the reaction is more than just the physical lost but also of how little league still connected us sentimentally.”