A cash-strapped east Hollywood youth baseball team has been guaranteed access to its neighborhood Dodgers Dreamfield after dozens of people around Los Angeles donated enough money to pay for permits to use the field and even provide a large financial cushion.
The Times reported Monday that the L.A. Bulldogs had been locked out of the field in Lemon Grove Recreation Center by the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks after a group of Hancock Park parents bought all the premium weekday time slots for their girls' softball league, the Wilshire Girls Softball Assn.
The Bulldogs had played for years on the field for free. After learning that they were shut out, parents of the 18 team members — ages 8 to 12 — said they would not be able to raise the $436 permit fee for the spring season even if a few hours of time were available.
To make the best of a difficult situation, the Bulldogs practiced on a 20-foot wide strip of grass between the Dreamfield perimeter fence and a parking lot: jogging around trees, tossing balls back and forth beside parked cars and swatting balls against the field's fence from three feet away.
The city backtracked Monday, saying that the hours of 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Mondays had become available for a reduced fee of $262. The same day, Diego and Annie Chavez of Culver City personally delivered the first donation in the team's history — $262.
"I feel awfully happy about this," said Diego Chavez, 88, who retired after a career of manufacturing crown molding. "I hated the thought of those kids having to play in the street instead of the Dreamfield field in their own neighborhood."
Johanna Sarmiento, who is in charge of the Bulldogs' financial matters, described the donation as "absolutely awesome."
"Now, nobody can say, 'Hey, Bulldogs, you can't step foot on the Dreamfield because you don't have a permit,' " she said. "I bought the city permit — our first — Monday afternoon, and it feels terrific."
The Bulldogs are also receiving help from the Wilshire girls league, whose board of directors on Monday approved donation of its unused Friday night time slots to the Bulldogs. It is also considering a proposal to donate its unused time slots on Tuesdays through Thursday to the Bulldogs.
"Running a youth baseball league in this city involves parents, coaches, city officials and politics," said Adam Glickman, president of the Wilshire league. "But at the end of the day, we must honor the belief that the kids come first."
There's more. On Monday, the Bulldogs, who had raised money for bats, balls and uniforms by selling caramel apples and jalepeño popcorn to fans, established a funding site for the donations that have been pouring in over the last few days.
"The last time I looked, the fund had grown to more than $4,000," Sarmiento said. "Wow. We are grateful for all the support."