Softballs were flying over the outfield fence at Birdie Tebbetts Field June 13, hitting the tin roof of the newly erected shelter and startling dogs and their owners in the dog park.
“If the shelter had not been there, someone could’ve been hurt,” said Commissioner Jean Peelen who, along with several others and their dogs, was under the shelter when the first balls struck at approximately 6:45 p.m.
The dog park is a fenced area on the perimeter of the outfield of the ball park.
Another witness, Bill Ellstrom, who came to the dog run after the initial hits said, “It was war.”
There were approximately six ballplayers, eight or nine dog people and a dozen dogs when he arrived at the park at approximately 8 p.m., Ellstrom said.
He witnessed the ballplayers and dog owners arguing. “You wouldn’t want to print what they were saying,” he said.
And, Ellstrom said, one of the ballplayers stood in the dog run and began catching balls from what he overheard the players calling “a home-run derby.”
According to the sign-up board at the park, Robert Cornell of Holmes Beach reserved the ballpark for coed adult softball for Wednesdays, beginning at 5:30 and ending at dusk, through September.
Cornell said, while he wasn’t at the park on the evening of the incident, one of his team members, Larry Conlon of Holmes Beach, was at the field.
The first ball that hit the shelter’s tin roof “startled the people — it was loud,” and discussions between the two factions were “courteous” at first, according to Conlon.
“It was kind of becoming immature towards the end of the evening,” he added, saying one woman in the dog run threw a softball into the garbage can.
“In no way was someone trying to maliciously hit anyone,” Conlon added.
Peelen said she left after approaching the ballplayers about the incident, and did not see the “home run derby.”
The ballplayers were “not nice,” according to Peelen, and she was sad to hear about the derby. Dog park users need to realize “people have the right to play ball. And I’m happy to share.
“It’s a small price to pay on Wednesday evenings,” Peelen said. “But know that you’re going to be (at the park) at your own risk.”
Some dog owners were led to believe it would only be a kids’ ball field, she said.
Peelen, however, said this is a “clearly legitimate misunderstanding.”
She said perhaps a sign should be posted about using the dog park at your own risk.
Cornell said, “I don’t know what’s the solution,” while suggesting the addition of netting or additional roofing over the dog run.
Also, because of the minimal use expected during the summer, Cornell said people wanting to use the dog run might avoid the field during the two-hour window of the ballplayers’ scheduled practice
Cornell said it’s “unfortunate” that city’s redesign made the field shorter. “When they put up the fence they put it up on the wrong side” of the outfield fence, he said.
“It’s been a lose-lose,” for the ball players and dog owners who exercise their dogs,” said Conlon.
“Before the fence was built, the dogs had the whole field area, and the players had a larger field.”
Dog park plans move forward, naming contest announced
By Kathy Prucnell
A new sign at the entrance to the Holmes Beach dog park announces, “This park has gone to the dogs,” but the newly opened area is yet to have a name.
Holmes Beach volunteers, contractors and city workers pitched in to improve the new dog exercise area adjacent to Birdie Tebbetts Field — along the outfield — at 62nd Street and Flotilla Drive in recent months, first with a fence, then with amenities, including a shelter, benches, signs and trees and other landscaping.
To remedy the lack of a name, some of the people who frequent the dog park are asking anyone with a “catchy name” to enter a Name-the-Park Contest, said Barbara Parkman.
Entrants are asked to e-mail suggested park names — sure to be popular with pups and their owners — to Barbara.firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline for contest entries is July 4.
Organizers will post the entries online and at the park. Parkman said the winner will be chosen from the roster of “dog people.”
Votes for the best dog park name should be sent to Barbara.email@example.com or dropped in a container that will be provided in the dog park shelter.
The contest winner will be awarded bragging rights and a $25 gift certificate to Pet Supermarket.
In other dog park news, Parkman reports the June 9 dog park yard sale raised $586, and the funds will be put toward more dog park improvements.
Parkman also said the double-gate entry will be installed soon, and a pet water fountain is in the works.