The City of Homestead is investigating complaints and concerns regarding the Homestead Youth Baseball Program at J.D. Redd Park.
The investigation is being conducted through the City’s Parks and Recreation Department.
The allegations can be broken down to dissatisfaction with game and practice scheduling, game and registration fees and with fees charged for the Cooperstown Team, which is considered an elite travel team.
There have been conflicts between the league’s president and coaches. And there has been allegations of retaliation by the league’s president against theRaptors team, according to Zackery Good, assistant city manager.
During the February Homestead City Council meeting, parents and coaches involved with the league, which offers recreational level baseball to young people in Homestead for young children under age 18, voiced concerns and complaints they had with the program and its president Carlos Garcia.
As in many athletic programs for youngsters, the baseball players at J.D. Redd Park have varying levels of talent and experience. Some of the younger children have had very little experience with competitive athletics while some older teenagers may have been playing for years and hope to play high school baseball.
Residents who spoke at the meeting expressed concerns on various items. One man who coaches baseball said he left the program with a group of players to seek stronger competition and more opportunities for the players to develop.
Some parents said the program was too demanding and hard for less experienced and competitive players.
They wanted the program to be more about developing relationships and less about serious competition.
One woman complained that her daughter who had been involved with program for years as a player had been asked to leave the park over a fee that may not have been paid.
Residents complained that Carlos Garcia was too dictatorial and harsh as a leader.
Councilwoman Erica Avila said, “I think that Carlos provides a variety of options. We are going to look into the option of running our own athletic programs,” she said. “I would like to see to more of our City’s management involved with park programming.”
Mayor Steve Losner said, “The bottom line is that there are allegations of bias against some kids and teams. There are allegations of financial impropriety. Staff has interviewed several coaches and several parents and Garcia. At this point, it is my understanding that staff has completed its fact finding and is going to make some recommendations to the people as to how we think things should go forward so we can finish the season. Parks staff will make recommendations on organizational changes to the Council.”
Garcia wonders why some people are angry. “The league is doing great, and we are not going down. Teams from all over are coming to the park. We have created partnerships with other teams. We are working to build a better league in Homestead, and it is very unfortunate that some people are angry,” he said.
Garcia believes the Cooperstown team has provided a good opportunity for more experienced players to compete at a higher level. He also said that players and coaches from the league have been able to participate in an opening ceremony for a Marlins game at LoanDepot Stadium. Garcia said the players have been able to meet with former major league baseball players. He said that a real World Series trophy was placed at J.D. Redd Park during a free clinic with those former major league players.
“All the allegations against me are inaccurate,” he said. “We encourage players and coaches to stay in Homestead and grow their baseball skills in Homestead. We don’t want our players to go to other leagues. Some coaches are taking our players and going to other leagues outside of Homestead. We have teams that travel to other parks on a weekly basis and teams come to us from other parks on a weekly basis. We offer opportunities to all players regardless of skill level.”
The City investigators have contacted current and former coaches and parents. They have met with Garcia and his board of directors and asked for a copy of schedules and records communications with parents and coaches. Once the city finishes the investigation it will let the league and Garcia know what will take place next.
The Homestead Youth Baseball program is a nonprofit organization that has a Youth Sports Organization agreement which allows the program to operate the league at J.D. Redd Park. The adult leaders of the league are not considered employees of the City. They have a contract with the City to operate the league and the league pays the City for field lighting and basic field maintenance. The league pays $10 for each non-resident player who participates in the league. It does not pay for resident players, according to Good.
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