Wednesday, June 08, 2011

8 JUN 11: Take Your Ball and Stay Home

Columbus is supposed to be a baseball hot spot, right? We win state high school titles and Little League regional tournaments, right? So why won't some people allow ball diamonds to be built near their homes? Are they that concerned about victory parades ruining their neighborhoods?

A baseball rhubarb was on the Harris County Commission agenda Tuesday night. At issue was.... hey, wait a minute. Why is baseball the only sport where you hear about rhubarbs? In football or basketball, they're called arguments. But then again, those sports don't happen in the best growing season for rhubarb.

But anyway: WTVM reports Harris County Commissioners voted 3-1 against a proposal for six baseball fields on land along Highway 315. John Rodgers succeeded a couple of years ago in having the land rezoned "agricultural," so his family could play ball there. So much for setting up a season for their Facebook friends.

John Rodgers noted there's a thick row of trees between his land and the Chase Plantation subdivision in Fortson. That should take care of the main complaint - the service calls for Columbus glass companies.

But people in Chase Plantation had other concerns. One homeowner said nearby baseball fields would lead to too much noise and pollution. That's probably why Jeff Foxworthy owns a lot of Harris County land, but never has opened a comedy club on it.

There apparently even were rumors in Fortson that John Rodgers's baseball complex would have alcohol sales. C'mon now - he wanted six fields, not six packs.

But John Rodgers didn't help his cause with something he did on the land in February. WRBL revealed he was cited for having a church softball practice on the grounds - because "agricultural" zoning doesn't even allow that. The church members probably could plant rows of corn, but they couldn't catch "cans of corn."

The Harris County Planning Commission was unanimously against rezoning the land as "commercial," for an athletic complex. So John Rodgers tried to adjust his proposed for Tuesday night's meeting -- promising no lights on the fields and no play after sundown. But apparently none of the commissioners are transplants from Chicago.

Tuesday night's vote means John Rodgers may have to sell his land. It also means Harris County youngsters will have to look elsewhere for a place to learn baseball skills -- and the Columbus Northern Little League powerhouse apparently is safe for years to come.

But this vote also reinforces the fickle attitude people in the Columbus area have about baseball. When Little League and high school teams are successful, people love it. When Columbus State plays well, they'll accept it. But once you graduate from college, you're supposed to pick a Southeastern Conference football team and love it for the rest of your life.

Columbus-area baseball players have received national attention in recent years. Take Tuesday - when Columbus High School catcher Jordan Weems was drafted by the Boston Red Sox. Considering Chase Weems was drafted by the New York Yankees a few years ago, their parents will have to handle things very carefully for awhile.

As it happens, Tuesday's Ledger-Enquirer had a tongue-in-cheek column suggesting Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson appoint a task force to bring professional baseball back to Columbus. If I may politely point out something to Chuck Williams - the Columbus Sports Council still exists.

That Columbus Sports Council brought several college baseball tournaments to Golden Park over the last several weeks. The latest was the National Club Baseball Association World Series, which East Carolina won last Thursday night. Yet we've heard more about midsummer triathlons -- as if more Columbus residents will show up to see if someone collapses on Broadway.

Some people think the answer to Columbus's lack of minor league baseball is a new ballpark on the north side. Yet Tuesday night's vote in Harris County suggests baseball even might be a tough sell there. Maybe the fields belong much farther north - in West Point, where Kia executives from South Korea would make it a matter of national pride.

Let's quickly check the scoreboard of other Tuesday news....

+ The high temperature in Columbus was 97 degrees F. The Georgia state climatologist predicted the state's weather will be hotter than normal this summer. Isn't this a little like predicting someone will start selling fireworks before Independence Day?

(Alabama Governor Robert Bentley signed a proclamation banning all outdoor burning. This had to be a difficult decision for Bentley - because that means Baptist churches can't hold book-burnings for awhile.)

+ Mayor Teresa Pike Tomlinson broke away from her German tour group to sell Columbus to a potential new high-tech manufacturing company. The mayor told WRBL the meeting was "positive." We'll know that for sure if the Bavarian House restaurant announces plans to move to Schatulga Road.

(The Augusta Chronicle did some checking, and found Mayor Tomlinson earns $75,845. The mayor of Savannah who's touring Germany with her is paid only $42,000. I can't wait for Mayor Tomlinson to get home and tell us who sat on the airplane in first-class, and who was in coach.)

+ The Phenix City Council approved a two-percent pay raise for all city employees. Isn't this amazing? Compare it with the big raise Councilors received a couple of years ago, and this is exactly how the private sector operates.

(One spectator at the council meeting told WLTZ some city jobs should be eliminated, because "we could get robots" to do them. Yeah, right - until frustrated downtown drivers confront a robot writing a parking ticket.)

+ Columbus Police told the Ledger-Enquirer a woman was arrested for walking out of Cheddars restaurant without paying an 80-dollar bill. The lesson here is obvious - don't walk into Cheddars unless you've got the cheese.

+ Deputy City Manager David Arrington told WDAK's "Viewpoint" the groundbreaking for a new natatorium on Rigdon Road finally should occur sometime after Labor Day. So please stop the rumors about plans to melt the new ice rink....

+ Prosecutors unveiled a list of potential witnesses in the Alabama bingo corruption trial. For some reason, one name on the list is former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue. Did he quietly join Larry Langford on one of those gambling trips to Victoryland?

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