Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

Posts Tagged ‘California

Salinas football players lead march to fight city's gang image

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When my local youth baseball and softball players march through the streets of Oak Lawn, Ill., it’s to announce, “We’re ready to play!” When the local high school football teams march through the streets of Salinas, Calif., it’s to announce, “We’re not gang members!”

From the (Salinas) Californian:

“One City — Our City” read the sign carried by football players leading a first-ever peace march. Their goal? Show the community that its adolescents are doing great things.

Salinas police officers controlled traffic as they escorted an enthusiastic rally of about 500 people. The 12-mile walk [which went by all the city’s high schools] began at 8 a.m. [May 24] from Alisal High School.

“Salinas is not full of kids who want to commit crime or be in gangs,” said Arturo Rodriguez, an Alisal High School football player who said he chose, on a day he could have slept in, to wake up early to take part in the effort.

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And why did the football players feel compelled to have this rally? Because Salinas has gotten a reputation as gang-banger central thanks to a major spike in violent crime over the last four years. Salinas’ per-capita murder rate in two years, from 2006 to 2008, went from 4.74 per 100,000 to 17.42 per 100,000, or seven murders to 25. The rate only went up, to 29 murders, in 2009. Salinas has more murders than just about any large California city, save, say, Oakland.

The city of about 150,000 is in the midst of “Operation Knockout,” a federal, state and local effort of mass arrests (at least 100 so far) that hope to, at least for a little while, calm down the drug- and gang-fueled violence. (Authorities say the violence has its roots in gangs fighting to control Salinas, a port, if you will, into the San Francisco Bay area drug market.)

Salinas’ image has taken such a hit from all the violence, the PONY league from nearby Monterey refused to play games there, for fear of its players’ safety. A little harsh and rash, perhaps, but it gives you an idea of what Salinas is dealing with.

Hopefully the next time the football players lead a parade, it’s not to say, “We’re not gang members!” Just, “We’re ready to play!”

Softball coach fired for employing sex offender husband — it gets weirder

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A little inside True/Slant baseball. This morning I got an email from the site’s own Kashmir Hill, saying she thought of me when she saw a story about a private school volleyball coach busted for kissing a 14-year-old girl. (This school, Brooklyn Poly Prep Country Day, is still reeling from the realization its late, longtime football coach was a child predator.) I thanked Kashmir for thinking of me, hoping it was because of this blog and not because I’ve given any indication of being a perv myself. I also mentioned that given the volumen of stories I see, I could probably make this site nothing but coach/student sex scandals (“That’s depressing,” Kashmir responded). I said I would leave most of that to

Well, thanks to Badjocks, I discovered a story that goes beyond the pale of the usual coach/student ickiness.

So in Palm Desert, Calif., the high school softball coach, Ashley Nieto, got fired for having a sex offender helping her out. That sex offender: her husband, Ronald Nieto. That husband’s victim: the softball coach herself.

But to crib a line from the great Captain Underpants series — OK, maybe a principal who runs around in his underpants is not the best literary character to cite in a piece like this — but before I tell you that story, I have to tell you this one.


According to the Desert Sun (Palm Springs, Calif.), Ashley Nieto, used her husband an assistant in 2004, until the district informed her and other coaches that every coach would have to be fingerprinted for a background check. Coach Nieto told the school about her husband’s sex offender past — a 1998 guilty plea to two counts of lewd activity with child younger than 16 — and was told her husband’s services in the dugout were no longer needed.

Except that he eventually made his way back to the dugout and helped work out the kids. The Nietos said there was a vendetta because a deputy district attorney’s daughter didn’t make varsity, although several parents came forward over the summer to tell the school Ronald Nieto worked with the girls on conditioning drills. Vendetta or not, and even though there was no evidence he ever harmed any Palm Desert player, Ronald Nieto couldn’t be working with the team.  and on Dec. 3, Ronald Nieto pleaded not guilty on Dec. 3 to charges of not disclosing his sex offender status, working with minors as a registered sex offender and being on campus without school officials’ permission.

Now about that Ashley-being-a-victim-of-Ronald thing.

Ronald’s conviction came when he was 38, and Ashley was 14. (He is now 50, she, 26.) Her contention is that she never wanted to press charges, but that her father demanded them. Parents just don’t understand, do they?

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Apparently, neither do the police, the school district, or just about anyone else. There is a time and place to argue that maybe we’ve gone overboard with putting people in the sex offender list (someone arrested for peeing outside? Really?), but this isn’t that place. If Ashley Nieto needs to work out her daddy issues or whatever with her aged husband, that’s her business. The Palm Desert softball team doesn’t need to be a part of it. That’s depressing.

When youth sports die, they can take a school and city down with them

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I think we can all agree that organized youth sports are not 100 percent essential to the school or growing-up experience, in that plenty of people grew up to be productive, non-prison-occupying citizens without them. However, a major change in how a school or locality treats youth sports can be a symbol of that school or locality’s falling into the abyss.

Much has been written about the impact of the South-Western City School Board in Columbus, Ohio, dropping all extracurricular activities after voters failed to pass a tax levy, and how that has further drained the energy of the district. In May I went to Elkhart, Ind., to write about youth sports in America’s poster child for sudden employment, and I found the dividing line between whether someone thought themselves as out-of-work middle class or poor depended a lot on whether they could still scrape together a few nickels for youth sports. After all, if they didn’t have the money to spend anymore on something they believed benefited their children, they didn’t have money for the basics, either.

But today’s city and school on the edge of the economic abyss is Elk Grove, Calif., where the school system is looking at cutting out all freshman and junior varsity sports, and even some varsity programs, across nine high schools, thus filling about $1 million of a projected $42 million budget hole, and resulting in one-third of the athletic budget gone. The next meeting to discuss sports is scheduled for Oct. 19, with a decision expected in November. Unlike in some other districts that have cut sports but brought them back, Elk Grove doesn’t seem keen on having local boosters raise money to “buy back” teams on the chopping block.

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Elk Grove, a former dairy town, in 2006 was declared by the U.S. Census the fastest growing city in America, peaking at 136,000 residents. Average values that year were riding their highest, $458,000.

Now they’re at $227,000 — about a 50 percent drop in three years. Elk Grove was the first new megasuburb to realize its fast growth was a mirage, built on loans its residents couldn’t afford, particularly once they started losing their jobs. Instead of a suburban paradise, Elk Grove is watching presumed inner-city crime problems move in as squatters and renters take over what were once pristine McMansions.

While that is certainly more than enough to shake Elk Grove’s images among its own citizens, the final nail in their soon-to-be-repossessed coffin is the slicing of sports. Like in Elkhart, it’s the difference between down on your luck and down for the count. In Elk Grove, the varsity sports most likely to be cut are the likes of water polo, recently added sports that spoke to the town’s growth and affluence, and whose demise speaks to Elk Grove’s decline.

Not to say that the community is taking this change of status lightly. John Tuttle, the volunteer water polo coach at Elk Grove’s Franklin High, told the Elk Grove Citizen the only towel that should be thrown in is one that a player of his used.

“Putting sport aside, I find this unacceptable and disturbing,” he said. “Teaching our kids about responsibility, accountability, and the fact that you have to work for what you want should be a high priority – and we are staring right at a real life situation that could easily accomplish this. Tossing it aside as too difficult and potentially inequitable suits leaders we can’t afford to be in charge in these tough economic times. “

Unfortunately for Tuttle and others like him, tossing things aside is the rule when your city suddenly becomes a basket case. Maybe some of the citizens of Elk Grove will respond by starting private programs to make up for the athletic loss. But with no sign of an economic turnaround, Elk Grove is going to be hard-pressed to keep any symbol of its former glory — especially sports.

Judge sentences convict to coach youth sports

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After running his first T-ball practice, this guy might be pining for one of his employer’s jail cells. From the Daily Triplicate in Crescent City, Calif., hard by the Oregon border:

A local business owner once suspected of being part of an insurance fraud scandal that involved multiple victims and spanned several years will likely have to coach youth sports as punishment.


Jerrold Young [above, played by Emilio Estevez], co-owner of Young and Company Insurance Brokers [and a guard at the Pelican Bay State Prison] , was initially ordered to serve a 30-day jail sentence, but on Thursday visiting judge John Morrison reduced that mandate to 280 hours of community service that he preferred the businessman spend with youth sports programs in the area.

Opposing coaches: keep close track of the score when facing one of Young’s teams. REALLY close track.

Written by rkcookjr

August 16, 2009 at 1:58 pm

Rep. Ken Calvert gets to hate children for at least two more weeks

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That’s because a southern California park district failed to approve taking land by eminent domain that had been sold to a group  kencalvert1including the Republican Congressman. The Jurupa Area Recreation and Park District, which serves an area near Riverside, wants the four acres for a park or youth sports field. Rep. Calvert and his Stadium Properties would rather use it as the site of a storage facility.

The park district is suing the local water and sewer district over the 2006 sale to Calvert, on the basis of a judge’s ruling that the $1.2 million sale violated state law because it didn’t provide state-mandated notice to other governmental agencies that it was selling property. Calvert and his folks last year offered to sell it back to $1.5 million, but the park district puts the fair market value (what an agency needs to pay to acquire property through eminent domain) at $700,000. Clearly, Rep. Calvert and Stadium Properties aren’t liking that rate of return.

Last year the park district got community approval by a 3-to-1 margin, through a mail-in vote, to take the property. So why didn’t it do so Thursday night? Four out of five members needed to say yes. One was absent. One abstained. Why did one abstain? That commissioner won’t say. But the district is planning to vote again Aug. 13.

Even if the vote goes through, surely Rep. Calvert and his group will sue or do something to fight it. That generally happens. At least one thing Calvert can’t move the land out of town in the dead of night to avoid eminent domain.


Written by rkcookjr

July 31, 2009 at 5:57 pm

Rep. Ken Calvert hates children

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I’m going to make this blanket statement about the Republican Congressman from Corona, Calif., based on tkencalvertwo items.

The first is a list, made by the Orange County Weekly in 2006, of what Calvert likes: “Toll roads, money, blowjobs.” (Personally I’m not so sure about the first one, but who would honestly argue against liking money and blowjobs?) The second, about what he dislikes, is apparent (to me, anyway) in Calvert’s continuing fight to keep four acres of ill-gotten land that should long have been turned into a park or a youth sports field.

The latest chapter in a three-year saga is scheduled to come Thursday. That’s when the Jurupa Area Recreation and Park District plans to show it’s not just some too-cute agency that uses April Lavigne songs as inspiration for naming its facilities, as its board votes to take the land from Calvert and his partners through eminent domain.

Technically, in the legal sense, the park district’s beef isn’t with Calvert, who has a long history, even for a career real estate developer, of eyebrow-raising land deals. The big upset is that Calvert apparently wanted to build a storage facility on it, and not use the land in some relation for a project he’s earmarking. The park district has sued not Calvert, but the Jurupa Community Services District. It’s the agency that runs the area’s pipe-related services, and it sold the land to Calvert and his Stadium Properties group. According to the Riverside Press-Enterprise, someone thought that transaction stunk like untreated sewage (while the lawsuit is draining the park district’s legal budget like a leaky washer):

In 2007, the Riverside County grand jury concluded the 2006 transaction violated state law because the community services district had not provided state-mandated notification to other governmental agencies that the property was available before selling it to the Calvert partnership.

The Jurupa park district had sought the land for use as a park or a youth sports field since at least 2001.

It’s too bad Calvert won’t do the right thing and just sell back the land, for the kids’ sake. Doesn’t he want to see children as happy as he is when he gets a toll road, money and a blowjob? Unless he knows it’s going to be called “Complicated Park.” Then he’s completely justified.

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A much better Calvert: Robert, singing lead on Hawkwind’s “Quark, Strangeness and Charm.”

Written by rkcookjr

July 28, 2009 at 7:39 am

The recession hits Beverly Hills youth sports

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3298865579_45d0265df4“Gee, Uncle Jed, I sher hope Mr. Drysdale gives us that loan to pay for Ellie May’s softball team!

Youth sports takes a hit because of the recession in even the most posh of addresses. From the Beverly Hills (Calif.) Courier:

The baseball fields may be manicured and the parks ready for play, but will there be anyone left standing at home plate?

Coaches of youth sports organizations are crying “foul” to the new fees they will have to pay after a 3-2 approval by the City Council Tuesday on all youth athletics. The Council’s hope is that it will generate $130,000 in revenue for Beverly Hills as it currently faces an $18.3 million deficit.

“Everyone has to pull their weight when it comes to the economy. This allows the City to recover some of the portions of expenses of the upkeep of the fields,” said Councilman John Mirisch, who voted yes with colleagues Dr. Willie Brien and Barry Brucker. “I understand people feel providing recreation space is a function of the government, but so is providing sanitation services. There is cost associated with it.”

In a nutshell, the city is charging $4 per hour for youth sports leagues to use city and school fields, as well as raising rates for players’ fees (now it’ll be $10 per player for residents and $30 for nonresidents) and imposing a $50-per-player fine on any organization that does not keep at least a 60/40 resident/nonresident ratio. The city of Beverly Hills is very big on residents only using its fields. Any youth sports organizations must have a majority of its board consisting of residents to even use facilities in the city.

More from the Courier:

Beverly Hills is not the only City imposing fees on youth sports, according to Recreation and Parks Commissioner Kathi Rothner, who also serves on the state’s board. Rothner said cities including Long Beach, Cypress and Agoura Hills are also charging. Others, she said, are “waiting on Beverly Hills to follow its lead.”

“Unfortunately, due to the difficult economic times, the City has had to cut budgets across all departments,” said Steve Zoet, assistant director Community Services. “In Community Services, we are decreasing activities and services for all age groups, including cutting after school programs and closing the Library early.

“We have also begun to assess fees for some programs to cover our costs.  For youth sports activities, the playing fields will still be provided, but we must charge fees to defray the costs of the public’s investment in making these facilities available.”

It’s not just cities in California charging leagues for field use when they never did before — it’s happening all over the country. Beverly Hills estimates it costs $370,000 to maintain its fields (a number coaches say is high), and it’s easy for cities to look at how much they’ve given leagues gratis and decide there’s some easy money to be made.

While it might seem like paying $185 for Little League is not a lot for one of America’s wealthiest enclaves, it is a lot to the poor of Beverly Hills? Poor? That’s right. As of the 2000 U.S. Census, the poverty rate in Beverly Hills was 9.1 percent. Certainly, a lot of kids from surrounding communities and neighborhoods came into Beverly Hills to play in its leagues, which must be why the city council made such a point about sticking it to out-of-town, non-Beverly Hills-taxpaying kids and their families. You wonder if the city council’s goal wa as much cutting the amount of kids using its facilities, so they didn’t have to spend as much maintaining them, as it was getting more money to keep them in shape.

Written by rkcookjr

July 9, 2009 at 11:17 pm