Baseball on Hold For Marshall County Youth in McMechen

Marshall County Commission asked to help

Photo by Drew Parker Marshall County Commissioners Bob Miller, from left, Scott Varner and John Gruzinskas hear concerns regarding youth baseball in McMechen.

Members of a local baseball organization are attempting to keep a treasured American pastime accessible to McMechen youth whose league has been displaced by a proposed housing project.

Jeff Kady, former chairman of the McMechen Baseball Association, addressed Marshall County commissioners Tuesday, explaining to members that current chairman Kevin Bratton had received a letter from the Spilman, Thomas & Battle law firm on behalf of land buyer James R. Chapman, informing the organization their fields and equipment on Industrial Road would need removed to avoid demolition.

County Administrator Betsy Frohnapfel said the land has been owned by the Regional Economic Development Partnership for years. The letter states the ballfield lease began in 1975.

RED “had Chapman approach them about doing a housing project at the site. There was a plan laid out to return one of the ballfields back to the city, which did not go through,” Frohnapfel said. “It is our understanding he is now moving forward with that type of project.”

The letter from attorney Ronald Musser, sent to Bratton Jan. 3, terminates a lease agreement with the association and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Co. dated June 1, 1975. The letter requests removal of the baseball organization’s equipment from the fields before Feb. 6.

According to association member Julie Bratton, the decision to terminate the lease affects 52 young athletes ages 4-13.

McMechen city officials noted Chapman applied for a zoning variance in late 2016, in order to build low-income housing on the property where the baseball fields are located.

Council and zoning board members tabled the zoning variance request at which time the zoning board stated there were many deficincies in the submitted variance request. City council advised Chapman that he needed to be in compliance with the city ordinances. Chapman has yet to submit additional information and reapply for a zoning variance.

Council will meet in regular session on Jan. 19. On the agenda, McMechen City Council has requested that Chapman appear at the meeting to discuss why the baseball fields will not be used for the children of the city.

“When we received the notification from the attorney, I contacted him and asked him if he could talk with Mr. Chapman and begged him to allow the children to use the baseball field, or even just the smaller of the two fields, for their season. Mr. Musser told me he had reached out to Mr. Chapman and Mr. Chapman had no intention to work with the association, even though we informed him this will cancel the 2017 baseball season for 52 children,” Bratton said. “At this time the association is working with the Mountaineer Baseball Association and to make sure each child that wants to play baseball has the opportunity to play somewhere in the Ohio Valley.”

Bratton added the association will host a public meeting sometime next week to discuss options with local families, a coaches and commissioners affected by the termination. Participating children were scheduled to begin practice for their season Jan. 8.