Edgewood woman strikes out the ballpark with her last pitch

May 15, 1994|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Sun Staff Writer

They say you can't fight city hall, but Maggie Green's doing a pretty good job of it.

And she may be winning. After all, she's retrieved enough foul balls from her back yard to convince Harford County Parks and Recreation officials that they built home plate just a little too close to home -- her home.

"It was like Camden Yards out there last week," the 72-year-old Edgewood resident told a meeting of the County Council recently about the activity on the county-owned playing fields behind her house.

A 90-foot-baseball diamond practically sits in her back yard, its third base-left field foul line paralleling her back property line for nearly 300 feet.

The county built the diamond and outfield two years ago on land adjacent to William Paca Elementary School and next to an older, smaller baseball diamond that backs up to another portion of Mrs. Green's 3-acre property.

But it's the newer, full-size diamond that has given her headaches and had county officials scrambling as the recreation league's baseball season gets under way to find a peaceful solution.

The ball field's third base is only 65 feet from Mrs. Green's split-rail fence. That's about the same distance as between third base and the fifth or sixth row of lower box seats at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, where the diamond is also 90 feet.

"I'm gettin' tired of this," she told council members on her third visit to council chambers in a month. "Spring is here, and I want to be able to enjoy my back yard."

Instead, she says, she has spent the spring plucking baseballs and softballs from her meticulously kept flower beds and shrubbery, her gazebo, her fish pond, her garage roof and even her compost pile -- by the dozens. She's even found a few golf balls hit into her yard by golfers who have used the outfield as a driving range.

The first time she set out to cut her grass this year, she told the council, she was struck on the elbow by a fastball fouled to the left by a youngster during a league practice session.

"The coach jumped over the fence and ran over to get the ball, and the only thing he said to me was, 'Gosh, I didn't think the kid could hit that far.' "

The very next day, she said, she was hit on the head by a ball thrown during an impromptu game organized by neighborhood kids. "That one nearly knocked me off my tractor," said Mrs. Green, who has gained a reputation in the area as a government watchdog.

Mrs. Green said that earlier in the spring she complained about the ball diamond to county officials by phone, but to no avail. Then she started complaining in person, taking advantage of the citizen comment period at the close of Tuesday County Council meetings to ask for help.

It was only after she promised she'd be "back again next week" and council President Jeffrey D. Wilson advised administration officials to look into her complaint that she got some action.

Parks and Recreation Director Robert Staab was dispatched to the site. And, while there was no game in progress, he could see from the location of the field that Mrs. Green had a point: The county's choice of location had not been a wise move, he admitted.

A week later he returned to see a team of teen-agers practicing. "We found four balls on her grounds just in that one visit," he said last week. At that point, he said, officials knew the field had to be closed.

"We recognized this was a real problem," said Mr. Staab. "It's definitely too close to her home."

But it's not an easy problem to solve, he said, especially with the county already suffering a shortage of playing fields and with the scheduled season of games about to begin. The Parks and Recreation Department oversees 19 local recreation councils, some with as many as 15 leagues.

Mr. Staab says that 90-foot diamonds are used mostly by leagues for 15- to 17-year-old boys. The field at William Paca, however, was scheduled for games by two leagues in the Emmorton Council this year, one of boys ages 13-14 and another boys 15-17. Their practice seasons began in April, and games were to start later this month.

Nevertheless, officials spent the better part of the last week relocating games originally scheduled on the diamond to other playing fields. By week's end, he said, officials had found diamonds in Joppatowne, Edgewood and Bel Air to accommodate the teams' games this summer.

In addition, the county Wednesday evening sent a crew of workers out to physically block the diamond from use. They ran a chain link fence from first base to third base and from home plate to the pitcher's mound to discourage neighborhood games on the field.

It's a temporary solution, Mr. Staab admits, but he hopes it will return Mrs. Green's property to the back yard haven she intended it to be. "We like to be good neighbors," he said.

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