Dunwoody Senior Baseball Fields (File)

The Dunwoody City Council at its Dec. 12 meeting approved a facility use agreement that will allow for girl’s softball programs to practice and play at the city’s Dunwoody Senior Baseball (DSB) fields next fall  – a move that DSB officials say will force the organization to cut the number of baseball players significantly. 

The facilities’ agreement also increases by $10 an hour the standard hourly rate for any fundraising tournaments hosted by DSB. 

A memo regarding the changes also says the “west field will be excluded from their (DSB) use during August 1-October 31 from 4 p.m. -7 p.m  Monday-Thursday, unless otherwise approved by the city. This will allow the Dunwoody High School Softball Booster Club to utilize the field during that time frame.”

Prior to the meeting, two members of DSB’s executive committee, John Crawford and Peter Keohane, said the proposed changes would force ” a real and direct impact” to the program.

“The second minor change to the usage agreement is anything but [minor],” Keohane said during public comment at the beginning of the meeting. “This would force a reduction in players who are going to be able to play. We estimate anywhere from 40 to 60 players that we would have to cut.”

Crawford also echoed Keohane’s concerns, saying that while softball practices “can be made to work, games are much more problematic.”

“Games are longer and would pose a problem as we play two games at 5:30 and 8 p.m., so we would just be able to play one game.”

He also pointed out the logistical challenges that come with converting a baseball field to a softball field, especially regarding the movement or modification of the existing pitcher’s mound to allow for a softball mound. 

“The mound costs $14,000 and it’s not easy to move,” Crawford said. “We would not want to do this.”

When the agreement came to a vote, the council discussed with Dunwoody Parks and Recreation Director Brent Walker the logistics of weaving a softball program into the mix. Walker said converting the field would cost about $50,000, which would include moving fences and converting the mound. He added, however, that “we are still a bit fluid” as an agreement still hasn’t been hammered out with an entity that would take ownership over the softball program. 

Dunwoody Mayor Lynn Deutsch said she would be in favor of making sure “we are an advocate for the children in my community,” and suggested that Dunwoody-based teams could be given preference over teams from other communities.

She also said she felt that private schools should be using their own fields as much as possible, rather than using the city-owned fields.

Council Member John Heneghan pushed back on offering preferential treatment to Dunwoody-based teams, saying that Dunwoody residents have a “shared responsibility” with other programs when it comes to its fields.

“When we formed this city years ago, we looked at what we had as far as services provided, and we had to go outside the city for little league, and we had two very nice fields at Dunwoody Senior, so we had these to offer,” Heneghan said. “We said, ‘Your kids are our kids and our kids are your kids,’ so we used these fields for the big kids, and they had fields for the little kids, so  we went to them and they came to us.”

“We have to be careful because it’s a slippery slope, because they are providing us equity as well,” he said.

The council voted unanimously to approve the agreement as written. 

Cathy Cobbs covers Dunwoody for Reporter Newspapers and Rough Draft Atlanta. She can be reached at cathy@roughdraftatlanta.com