"Flip the diamonds around:" Cross Park neighbors ask for a solution to baseballs hit into their yards


Some of the balls found this year in one yard next to the Cross Park ballfields

The Roscoe Township Board spent almost half of August 18's meeting listening to three neighbors share concerns about balls being hit into their yards from the softball field at Robert J. Cross Memorial Park. Scheduled games and practices at the park have ended for the summer. So at their next meeting, the Board plans to discuss temporarily closing the field until Highway Commissioner Steve Schreier can provide cost estimates for having his crew turn the field around. With the backstop moved so that home plate faces the opposite way, balls would fly toward the center of the park, away from residences.

Guy Maddox, who lives on  Cedarbrook Road next to Cross Park, showed the Board a sample of some of the softballs and baseballs that have ended up in his backyard this year, not counting the balls that players have reclaimed by coming into his yard when he isn't there. All his neighbors have similar ball collections. He said one ball hit his garage, and another one almost hit him when he was mowing his yard. The siding of another home was damaged by a flying golf ball. Maddox said, "I used to play baseball as a kid so I understand the sport." He stated that, even though his yard is behind the softball field, players must be playing baseball there too, because he find hardballs in his yard. In fact, neighbors say they never see anyone using the baseball field, which is larger and designed for hardballs that go farther. 

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Trustee Chuck Gilbert asked the neighbors if they had ever gone to the players or coaches to express their concern. One neighbor responded, "Oh, you better be careful if you do that. If they're not there in a team, there with a coach, they attack you." Players insist they have the right to be there, that "if the diamond wasn't meant to be facing that direction..." that since Roscoe Township put it in, they have a right to play on it as they want. She says she has watched the kids "literally having a tournament to see how far you can hit the ball." She agree the response from adult coaches is better, when the field is assigned for league play, but it gets worse when the games aren't supervised. 

Trustee Chuck Gilbert asked the neighbors, "Do any of you have a suggestion about what you would like to see done? How we can protect you? We're listening."

One woman, who did not want her name used, explained their suggestion, "Right now the balls are going into the backyards. What if you flipped [the diamonds] 180 degrees the other way, so the balls are going into the park where they should be going and not into this guy's backyard?"

According to Township Supervisor Bob Nowicki, Highway Commissioner Steve Schreier has told him that from a labor and cost perspective, "this wouldn't be hard at all" to do.  Schreier's crew has the proper equipment and the Township hasn't had any schedules for those two fields since July. First, the road crew could put up signs or barricades saying the ball field is closed. Then they could "scrape the dirt, bring in limestone - no more clay - and flip it to the other side." They would plant grass or trees in the former outfield. "If it's just labor and several truckloads of limestone, that's very minimal."

The neighbor said her only fear was to "make sure you can't add a third diamond ever." In the original proposal, all the diamonds were facing the neighbors, and so would any lights that might be put in. Any additional ballfields would have the same problem. She said when the park was built, previous board members didn't listen to the concerns of the neighborhood's "Save our Subdivision" organization. "A park is one thing; a sports complex is another." she said. "I want to do something that we all can live with, that will keep the integrity of the park with the diamonds that are there, but not add anything to it."

She said stray balls have been a problem since the Township put the park in, but the neighbors had been asking the previous Township Board for help since last year. Trustee Gilbert replied, "We're all in favor of taking action, not just listening... You're more than welcome to make sure we do everything we say we're going to do."

Township Attorney Tom Green said if someone disregarded signs that said "No baseball allowed - field is closed," they could be prosecuted. He admitted, "I've never even seen the ordinance book. I've only been around for five years or so." Faint laughter was heard in the room when he said that. But he trusted that Roscoe Township did have an ordinance book. 

Bob Nowicki said, to protect these neighbors, the Township needs to come up with a longer term solution. "We need to look ahead. I know there's a restriction [now] that says no lights, but all it takes is a new ordinance and there are lights. I think trees would be the safest things to plant in there, because we all know no one likes to see trees cut down. But it's tough to make it permanent."

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