Scheduling Conflict Forces Two Leagues to Fight for Space to Play at McClatchy Park

SACRAMENTO -- No matter the sport, most athletes will tell you they love to play the game.

Unfortunately for two Sacramento leagues, the Oak Park Little League and the Sacramento Australian Football Club, the space and time to play is shrinking.

"I just don't think that they want Oak Park Little League to exist anymore," said Norman Robert Blackwell Sr.

Blackwell started playing in the Oak Park Little League more than 60 years ago. He says the league has greatly helped out youth in this community.

"It's good for the kids, the fact that it'll keep them out of trouble," Blackwell said.

But this year the city created a huge problem. There's a scheduling conflict.

"They told me that I would have to play little league games between 4 and 6 p.m., but most of our kids here don't get out of school till 4 or 4:15," said Gary Goethe, president of Oak Park Little League.

So Goethe has the games starting at 5:30. However, taking the field at 6, and currently holding the permit for that time slot, is the Sacramento Australian Football Club.

"We've moved back and forth from fields already like three times in the last couple of months, basically getting out of the way of the kids because a bunch of adults, we have no interest in kicking kids off the field," said Saleh Tyebjee, director of operations for the Sacramento Australian Football Club.

Still, these 60 or so players do want to play their sport -- one which requires a massive amount of space.

"In the run of the game, I might kick it 50 yards to somebody ,and we have a really spread out field," Tyebjee said.

So far the Australian Football Club is only practicing, waiting to play until after 7 -- when the baseball games end. But Thursday they have to start playing a league game at 6 on the dot. It's a day baseball games have also been scheduled.

"They just told us adamant, you will not be out here on Thursdays, we have a tournament coming up, we need the whole field. So I guess our kids are supposed to come out here and watch them play," Goethe said.

Goethe, Blackwell and the little league parents are furious this was allowed to happen. Considering the league has been playing on the field every year since 1973, they feel the city should have known there would be a problem.

"If they were sincere about it, they could have had a resolution to this months ago," Goethe said.

The city released the following statement:

"The City is working with both the Rugby League and the Oak Park Little League on the scheduling conflict, and working on a solution to accommodate both leagues. We will update the community once a solution has been finalized. Both have agreements with the City."