Camacho said the league is feeling the effects of the overwhelming demand for youth sports fields in Tracy.
“There are just not enough fields in Tracy, is what it comes down to,” Camacho said.
This year, the league had to leave its old home at Monte Vista Middle School on Lowell Avenue to make way for Tracy High baseball, which makes the fields its permanent new home after being displaced because of the construction of Wayne Schneider Stadium.
The youth league also won’t have its new diamonds at Legacy Fields, just north of Tracy city limits along Tracy Boulevard, until next spring.
The league starts its 2013 season on Saturday, March 9, at the Tracy Sports Complex at 11th Street and Crossroads Drive.
Players will arrive for opening ceremonies at 9 a.m. and will have a full day of games from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. or later.
The league rents the sports complex from the city of Tracy and will have games there every Saturday, and on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights.
The league will also rent the city’s Galli and Bland parks on Lowell Avenue, and Tracy Ball Park for older players. Camacho also found fields to rent from Tracy Unified School District at South/West Park School.
The league won’t have all of the fields it wants, and teams will be scattered around on practice days, but at least teams know they will have place to play on game days.
“Now that I’ve got the schedules done it doesn’t look as bad as earlier on,” Camacho said. “I wasn’t sure we’d get all the games in, but they’re in now.”
Practice time at a premium
The biggest difference this year is how often the teams will practice.
Camacho said teams that used to practice three to five times a week at Monte Vista now get one night a week at the Tracy Sports Complex, and one or two more practices during the week at another park.
Coaches have to improvise if they want more practice time, according to Ruben Marlin, coach of the 11-12 Orioles.
“I just go out to any grass area I can find,” he said. “If I get a field, it’s a plus. I like to practice on a diamond, but sometimes it doesn’t happen that way.”
In the weeks leading up to opening day, teams coped by doubling or even tripling up on the Tracy Sports Complex fields.
“We’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got,” said Robert Garcia, coach of the 11-12 Marlins, on Wednesday. “Today we were supposed to split the fields and have one team on the infield and one in the outfield.”
The bright side, Garcia said, is that the city’s fields at Tracy Sports Complex are well-kept and also well-lit at night.
“A lot of these boys never got to play under the lights at the other fields, so it’s a big thing for the boys. They get excited,” he said.
City hard-pressed to provide fields
Rod Buchanan, parks and community services director for Tracy, said that even before Babe Ruth lost its fields at Monte Vista, city staff was hard-pressed to accommodate all of the groups who want to rent city fields.
“It’s a balancing act every single year,” Buchanan said.
He said that 10 leagues put in requests months in advance for 7,980 hours this year on baseball and softball diamonds at Tracy Sports Complex, Veterans Park, Galli Park, Tiago Park and Bland Park and Tracy Ball Park.
The city could handle a little more than half of those requests, scheduling 4,360 hours this year for baseball and softball teams at those parks.
Buchanan added that Tracy Babe Ruth asked for 3,264 hours for the year and got 2,039 hours. He expects the new sports park north of town will make up for a lot of that difference.
“That’s why Legacy Fields is such an important project to the community,” he said.
The city charges $5 per hour for use of the fields and $7 per hour if the lights are used. The city also charges a $25-per-hour attendant fee for Tracy Sports Complex, a fee that can be divided among users of the park’s four diamonds.
Money still an issue
Camacho said that the cost this year doesn’t turn out to be much more than the $20,000 or so the league paid Tracy Unified each year to rent Monte Vista’s fields. But money is still an issue.
The league used to make about $10,000 each year through its snack bar, but the city has its own contractor, Delicious Concessions, running the snack bar at the Tracy Sports Complex.
The league needs to raise more than $150,000 to put in grass, irrigation, dugouts and backstops at its five diamonds at Legacy Fields.
That meant raising fees about 10 percent to $195 each for most Babe Ruth players, who are also selling chocolate bars to raise money, unless their parents want to pay $50 to opt out of the chocolate sales.
The league will also host a crab feed on March 23 at the Tracy Community Center, and will look for field sponsors.
“We’re just finishing up our marketing materials to go after local businesses to help us out,” Camacho said.
• Contact Bob Brownne at 835-3030 or email@example.com.