Lit diamonds: Softball moms join fight for McIntire fields

Jessie and mom Anne Powell want more softball fields, not fewer.

Anyone who thinks that the city's plan to kill softball fields at McIntire Park has angered only aging, beer-drinking softball enthusiasts has been proven wrong this week as a new and vocal constituency has emerged to defend McIntire's fields: softball moms.

"The girls are slowly making inroads to the nice fields that the city has," says Anne Powell, a mother of a softball player and a girls softball tournament coordinator. "Parents would be upset," adds Powell, "knowing that these fields would be taken out."

So Powell and other girls softball volunteers are beginning to make their voices heard– just as Albemarle County's board chair has planned a highly anticipated public meeting to be held on Thursday.

"McIntire Park gives the town a chance to grow softball," Powell says. "Our parents have not been involved in this discussion because we haven't felt it's been our park– that it's the adult softballers' fight to fight, even though it should be our fight to fight as well."

Powell has been involved in the girls softball movement since 2000, when her daughter, Danielle–- then a fourth grader–- joined the city's recreational program. However, after wanting more than the local league could offer, the girl enrolled in a travel league that utilized various softball complexes scattered across Virginia.

"I do believe that girls in this town have been under-served for decades and, in general, girls are not given the same access to the City's really nice parks and fields," Powell says. "We've never really had a facility; the boys and the adults have all the facilities. Girls have been short-changed for a long time."

In recent years, Powell has tried bringing more travel tournaments to Charlottesville, but in attempting to get field space, her requests were often denied due to adult tournaments utilizing the same limited space.

"I had to storm City Hall with letters from parents and coaches demanding more tournament space in town for our girls," Powell says. "Eventually, the City has given us the same access as the adults, however, it wasn't easy, and it wasn't without a fight."

It was City Council's May 19 decision to revamp McIntire Park without softball that touched off this controversy. Albemarle Board of Supervisors chair Ken Boyd blasted what he sees as unilateral decision that "bothers" him, and he put together a Community Conversation on the related issue of lights for the jointly-owned softball fields at Darden Towe Park this Thursday, September 11, a 7pm at the Elks Lodge by Towe.

Bob Fenwick, a local softball player, shares Powell's worry that diminishing softball fields could diminish softball.

"If the city is going to demolish these fields and not light Darden Towe, softball will die here in Charlottesville," Fenwick says. "Not only for us, but for the little girls and the businesses who sponsor softball."

Warming up for a recent night game at McIntire, Fenwick is approached by fellow players and families offering encouragement for his campaign, which includes a Save McIntire website. Fenwick accuses Charlottesville's City Council of not being in touch with the true needs of the softball community.

"I don't think they have any idea how popular McIntire is," Fenwick says. "I've never seen a city councilor out here– they're just not out here."

According to Powell, the destruction of McIntire's fields could go beyond harming the cause of softball in Charlottesville.

"There's a reason why it's a dying sport in town for girls– we've never had a home base," says Powell. "Losing more fields right now is probably the last thing the girls of this town need, even if they never actually got to use them much in the first place."

–-story corrected at 10:32am, September 10 to give correct name of daughter who began playing in year 2000


Let me see if I have this straight. There's a perfectly good softball complex at McIntire Park, but the City and the County want to pay millions to erase it for a rectangular field. AND they want to pay millions to the YMCA for taking a piece of this land. Okay, glad we could straighten that out!

The girls are not the only users of the softball fields who should not be described as "aging, beer-drinking softball enthusiasts" (well, at least not the beer-drinking part; but if we're not aging, we're dead). There is also a long-established and thriving church league that serves scores of players. That league will also be squeezed if the number of fields is diminished.

You know, there's a good point buried in this article. Maybe all of the companies who sponsor softball teams ought to contact City Hall and let them know they are not pleased by these developments. City Council only usually really listens to the citizens who happen to agree with them, but employers might carry a little more weight.

I so agree with you Dan, I am SO SICK of every article making some reference to beer drinking or beer swilling softball players and fans. It is judgemental and putting a negative stereotype in all of the readers heads. Although we appreciate you making an oh so generous effort to cover the story, probably because your editor assigned it to you and you could care less, truely shows poor taste in your "beer" references. It is rude and offensive and I feel safe to say I am not the only one that feels this way.

whats the difference between a softball mom and a pitbull?

Softball moms children don't run the streets scaring people.

I do not understand why Charlottesville wants to erase a perfectly great park that has the two best maintained softball fields in the area. The softball fields should stay in McIntire and lights should be added at Towe Park on those softball fields. I have played recreational softball in Charlottesville since 1999, I also have two girls that play in high school, on travel teams and in the Babe Ruth girls softball league. Finding available softball fields to play and practice on already is difficult.

I no longer live in Charlottesville, but have many fond memories of McIntire fields. For years I had fun watching my granddaughters play, and cheering them on with other families and friends. Over the years watching their confidence grow was most exciting. For the future daughters, granddaughters and friends I do hope McIntire fields will be maintained and used in the future, as is. I would like to add that I agree with what dizzy Gillespie said.

There's some kind of boondoggle inside this whole thing. It's kind of ironic that the city is unwilling to give up one square inch of McIntire Park for a road, but will abandon an enormous chunk of it and tell some of the park's most consistent users to go to hell for the YMCA.

The destruction of the great fields at McIntire is a fiscally irresponsible decision in addition to dramatically decreasing the playing opportunities for local softball players - be they little girls, church leagues, or city leagues (whether or not they may choose to imbibe). These fields were built years ago - the money is spent. Why destroy them to make room for a, um, "rectangular" field (read SOCCER field)? The whole emphasis on the adult softball players detracts from the fact that there are also children involved. Few news reports even acknowledge these girls and their need for a softball home! All the baseball leagues have a home while these girls already have to fight for space on mediocre fields. Why aren't we trying to increase the availability of playing space instead of tearing it down ... only for the city to decide in a few years that the girls need a place to play and THEN spend money again to build fields. Hmm.

I just read that it is estimated to cost between $500,000 and $700,000 to light the Darden Towe Park. Why in the world would you tear down a perfectly good set of field only to have to spend even more money to light new fields...

I thought the city has a 4 million budget shortfall?
Wouldn't keeping things "as-is" reduce a big chunk of that?