Monthly Archive
for: ‘August, 2011’

Week 12 Update : Move to Waveland Fields

Well, it wasn’t Upper Hutchinson… but the Waveland Fields weren’t that bad. With two teams forfeiting, we didn’t quite get the result I was hoping for… but at this point, it is what it is I suppose… So now more fear as we head into the last two game days of the season and are forced to move the start time for the early games back to 5:30… this is obviously necessary as any team out there playing a late game last night could attest… Ruder/Cannon kept playing into complete darkness… but no doubt about it, the sun sets earlier come September… I would just ask of all the Captains to do your VERY best in getting a team out to Waveland, any and all forfeits statistically skew the regular season results which of course is highly undesirable… it’s just for 2 more weeks and then we’re in the clear.

In game action, the most significant movement on the Leaderboard came in the top 4 seeds where Cannon was able to outlast Ruder Group 7-3 as they played into darkness which allowed them to leapfrog both Goettsch and the Dogz who played each other to a 4-inning 9-9 tie. An exciting game where Goettsch scored 3 to tie it in the bottom of the last inning and the last play of the game was an out at the plate as the Dogz were able to preserve the tie after giving up the lead.

The Dobbins Group continued their undefeated run as well with a 6-3 victory over VOA. They now have a 2 game lead with 2 games to go, so they can clinch the #1 seed with a victory next week against SOM. And speaking of seeds, the Tournament Brackets page on the website has now started to update as the Tournament is just a mere two weeks away… check ’em out…

And with the Tournament just two weeks away, it’s really time to start surveying your players and making sure you have a full roster for Saturday, September 10th… I’m particularly interested in hearing back from Old Stylin’, SCB and Kelso-Burnett on how they’re looking for the Championship Tournament.

Regarding the Forum post that I’ve asked everyone on every team to both read and comment on… we’re currently up to 28 comments and I have to say… they’re all excellent… exactly in the spirit of tradition we’re looking for… the only problem is that there needs to be a lot more… at very least I would hope all the Captains that haven’t commented yet would do so… whether today or if you want to send yourself the link and do it at home over the weekend… it all works. The link to the post is going to be forwarded to the Park District next week, most likely Tuesday or Wednesday… in the meantime I will continue to send emails requesting comments from those that haven’t done so yet… I spoke to many of you yesterday that promised me you’d get it done.. please do it… it’s important.

All for now… and again, I apologize for the shear amount of reading I’ve asked you to do over the past couple weeks… those of you that have been around for a while know that it’s not my usual M.O. But in having had the league disrupted in such a significant way, this has become an important issue and I’ve chosen to communicate everything as opposed to under-informing… hopefully the majority of you are alright with that.

Traditions in Jeopardy at Grant Park

It was going on midnight the evening after Lollapalooza 2011 had come to a close in Chicago’s Grant Park. I walked out to the center of Upper Hutchinson Fields where the softball league I organize has played its Thursday night games since May of 2000. The only thought I had was to wonder how the carnage all around me could have been allowed to happen. We were supposed to resume league play in ten days, but what I was seeing all around me cast a pall of doubt over that as even a remote possibility.

The grass that had formally dominated the park was gone, in its place a swamp land of mud and trampled debris. The stench of beer and litter everywhere are two things usually banned on Park District property. As it has now turned out, the rest of our season has been relocated to a park that’s about a twenty minute drive north up the lakefront. Wouldn’t seem like the end of the world but a handful of our teams aren’t able to deal with the change of venue logistically, opening us up to certain forfeits and a statistical skewing of our season.

As human nature goes, I admit to being more offended this year than in years past because the annual swath of damage left in Lollapalooza’s wake has now directly affected me and my league. For the first time since the festival arrived in 2005, the surface of Upper Hutchinson Fields had been destroyed along with Lower Hutchinson. For the uninitiated, Upper and Lower Hutchinson, located on the southwest and southeast corners of Balbo and Columbus respectively, are home to 16 of the most prestigious softball diamonds amongst the Chicago Park Districts 534 total. Centrally located, beautiful vistas, superb management, great ground crews… Summer’s were sweet in Grant Park before Lollapalooza arrived.

For the record, many in our league love the fact that Chicago has Lollapalooza through 2018. It’s a cultural touchstone and obviously a tradition in its own right having just celebrated its 20th anniversary. We’re also glad that it happens in Grant Park. It always means a month of downtime for us at the two-thirds mark of our season, but we’ve melded this fact into our own tradition over the last 6 years, it’s the dog days down time, many plan their family vacations for this period, others in fact attend Lollapalooza.

But like Lollapalooza, the Chicago Design League has its own definition of Grant Park in the Summer. We’re a collection of the cities foremost architecture, engineering and construction firms. We’ve been playing softball together for the last 25 years and we’ve been on Upper Hutchinson in Grant Park for the past 11 years. Thursday nights from May through mid-September for over a decade culminating with an epic all-day Saturday Tournament as our season concludes each year. We’ve never used umpires, absolutely all batted balls are in-play and we always make sure our trash ends up in the cans before we leave. We have a tradition in Grant Park as well… and we now feel as though it’s being profoundly threatened.

Our goal is in no way, shape or form to displace Lollapalooza. We collectively realize how much money is generated by the event and understand as well that the festival is under contract through 2018. What we’re in search of is a solution that can allow all the indigenous tribes that use Grant Park every Summer to coexist in harmony. For us specifically, that means protecting softball in Grant Park which has been a Chicago tradition for the past half century.

The dismantling of Perry's Tent post-Lolla 2011. August 10, 2011

Towards that end we seek a conversation with the Chicago Park District focused on how to better protect the 16 softball diamonds at Grant Park from the legions that annually trample them during Lollapalooza. We consider it paramount that softball may resume on both Lower and Upper Hutchinson come mid-August once the festival has left town. We’d like to start that conversation with the following two suggestions;

First, an alternative location needs to be found for “Perry’s Tent”.

For the first time in the history of Lollapalooza’s residency at Grant Park, a massive tent covering almost the entirety of Upper Hutchinson field was set up as a response to the growing popularity of DJ’s and the concert goers who enjoy dancing to them. This resulted in the destruction of the 4 diamonds on Upper Hutchinson in addition to the 12 annually destroyed by the main concert grounds on Lower Hutchinson. Previous to this year Upper Hutchinson was reserved for emergency and VIP services as well as one of the bathroom banks. This low level of usage preserved the diamonds in a playable condition giving those who organize activities at Grant Park a ‘buffer zone’ in which to relocate events displaced by the destruction of Lower Hutchinson. This buffer zone has now been taken away which has caused a displacement of far too many events to locations outside of Grant Park in Lollapalooza’s aftermath. As Grant Park is a public park, this simply isn’t fair nor is it in the publics best interest.

Second, and speaking more towards ALL of Grant Park’s 16 diamonds being returned to a usable condition following the festival every year, would be to delay the “reconstruction” of Lower Hutchinson post-festival until permitted park activities drew to a close any given year, realistically October 1st. Having spoken to landscape architects on the topic it’s preferable to lay sod at this point in the Chicago season anyway as the sun isn’t as hot any longer and more rain tends to fall. In the meantime the diamonds themselves could be quickly restored, the outfield dirt graded for smoothness and softball could continue. Not ideal… having grass in the outfields would be the best possible scenario if a way to protect it could be devised, however a compromise we’d be willing to make in order to never be displaced from our park post-Lolla again.

The Mission Statement of the Chicago Park District reads as follows;

To enhance the quality of life in Chicago by becoming the leading provider of recreation and leisure opportunities.

To provide safe, inviting, and beautifully maintained parks and facilities; and

To create a customer-focused and responsive park system.

As merely one of the organizations/leagues/traditions that have occupied Grant Park over the last decades, we feel that the Park District has run afoul of their stated mission. We ask to sit down with them now, soon, while the issue is topical and Lollapalooza 2012 is still a long ways off, to come to some sort of compromise moving forward. Understanding the amount of money that Lollapalooza brings into the city, there must be some way that can continue without further disruption to the folks that have made Grant Park their home long before there ever was a Lollapalooza.

For those that may be visiting for the first time, feel free to roam around our website a while, the tradition we are trying to preserve will show through.

Editor’s Notes > Keeping track of outside links related to this topic; Check out Jim DeRogatis’s comments from September 18, 2011 for WBEZ…