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Baseball Brouhaha

May 18, 2011, 10:10 PM by Don Jorgensen

Baseball Brouhaha
SIOUX FALLS, SD - Dissension, friction, conflict; whatever you want to call it, those are just a few of the words that are being batted around at Sioux Falls' baseball diamonds.

For years, the Sioux Empire Baseball Association was considered the only game in town. But now it's running into some competition, and some parents and coaches are crying foul.

The gloves aren't off, but there's no doubt tension is brewing in Sioux Falls baseball. 

Don Jorgensen:  Do you feel like there's a little bit of conflict between the two organizations?
Mark Powell: Absolutely!

The two organizations Powell is referring to are the Sioux Empire Baseball Association, or SEBA, and a group of about 20 traveling teams.

Powell has five sons, all of whom play baseball. The two oldest used to play with SEBA, but left the program to join traveling teams.  Powell and many other parents are upset because they say traveling teams are black balled from playing in city tournaments. 

"As a parent, it's frustrating we have to spend money to go travel, but that's our choice.  We made that choice to do that.  It would be nice to play in a local tournament and sleep in your own bed and watch your kids play baseball," Powell said.

Powell, who still has three sons playing in SEBA, used to serve on the SEBA board, but stepped down after disagreements started popping up, like getting field time. 

"Well, they are allowed whenever there is open space," SEBA executive director Lyle Smith said. 

Smith works with the city to schedule field times for practices and games and says SEBA comes first. 

"There's no rule that says you can't utilize these fields, but we have the priority as the umbrella organization for youth baseball here in Sioux Falls.  The agreement with the city is if we have an activity out here that would come first," Smith said.

SEBA has over 3,000 kids playing summer baseball and Smith says it's hard to find time to schedule practices and games for everyone. 

"We've invested over $500,000 in all the facilities in Sioux Falls in regards to PA systems, stadiums and all those things.  We're struggling to accommodate what we have," Smith said.

Steve Phillips, who spent 20 years in pro baseball, is one of the traveling coaches. He trains his baseball players inside because he says he has a hard time getting on city-run fields. 

"A lot of us know we've been out there when there's not much going on.  Couple of high school games going on, but some fields are open and yet it's difficult to get some time out there," Phillips said.

He also thinks traveling teams shouldn't be banned from city tournaments. 

"We have families right here in town that pay taxes that would like to have their kids play in town so other family members, grandparents, can watch them play at least one of the weekends out of the summer," Phillips said.

Phillips says SEBA is a great organization and well run, but there might be some heartburn because some kids have left for traveling teams. 

"Some parents want their kids to play on a better team that travels a little bit more and that's everybody's choice, but I'm sure there is some animosity there," Phillips said. 

"My job is to take care of what we are responsible for and do the very best job in regards to providing equipment, staff and practice facilities," Smith said.

Facilities traveling teams would like to play on, especially during city tournaments. But unless the two sides find common ground, it appears they'll keep striking out. 

"One size doesn't have to fit all; we don't all have to fit under one umbrella.  Just because this group wants to travel a little more, that's okay; that should be viewed as acceptable.  But for us not to play in Sioux Falls is a little disheartening," Powell said.

The Sioux Falls Parks department says SEBA does have priority use, but not exclusive use. The parks director, Don Kearney, says SEBA does not have the ability to keep other teams from scheduling games or practices during remaining available dates.

As for the city tournaments, SEBA says it has a policy that says only SEBA teams can play in city tournaments, but it does invite teams from other towns.

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