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It Was a Hit With School Sluggers,but Earthquake Umpire Calls Foul

This is the story of the National Pastime vs. the State Building Code.

It starts with sports-boosterish parents at San Dieguito High School in Encinitas noticing that the school’s baseball teams in recent years have not torn up the Palomar League with blazing bats.

So the Mustang Athletic Foundation just built a batting cage on campus, with netting, lighting, Astroturf and two pitching machines--like the high-ceiling cages at the Family Fun Centers.

Cost of the project, including the value of donated materials and labor: about $50,000.

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With the season opener set for this weekend, the Mustangs should be taking hundreds of swings to sharpen their hand-eye coordination. They’re not.

The cage has been benched because it does not meet earthquake standards. The problem started when the school board got antsy about liability and called for a state inspection.

From Los Angeles came William Wu, Dodger fan and field engineer for the structural safety division of the Office of the State Architect.

He concluded that the batting cage is a school facility under Title XXIV of the State Building Code, and thus is subject to earthquake rules. He also looked askance at the use of plywood and old SDG&E; poles.

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He wants the school to submit design drawings and specifications, from an architect or structural engineer.

If an earthquake strikes, couldn’t the hitter(s) just sprint to the nearby baseball diamond?

“The law says school facilities must be seismically safe,” Wu noted. “It makes no difference whether it’s baseball or science.”

Athletic Director Dave LaBorde says he’s sure the cage can be brought up to code. Still, Wu says the paperwork will take at least a month, by which time the light-hitting Mustangs could be also-rans.

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Fearing another losing season, parents are let down.

“It’s very discouraging,” said Linda Hayes, who has two baseball-playing sons. “We did all this work, and then they threw us a curve.”

Finders Keepers?

San Diego cops Samuel Douglas and George Eberling were investigating an arson attempt Tuesday at a Linda Vista liquor store when 7-year-old Paola Solis walked in and said: “There’s a gun out there.”

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Indeed there was, lying on the sidewalk: a loaded steel-blue .22-caliber revolver, later found to have been stolen in a burglary.

Like other students at John Paul Jones Elementary School in Serra Mesa, the second-grader had been warned never to touch any sort of firearm or explosive and to immediately tell an adult.

The school began such instruction after two young boys in nearby Tierrasanta were killed in December, 1983, while playing with military ordnance found in a field.

Does Paola’s quick thinking show that the safety instruction is taking hold? Yes and no, Principal Darlene Cason said.

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A week earlier, a fifth-grade boy found a bullet near the school, took it home overnight and was trying to sell it on the playground when spotted by horrified teachers.

“We’ve still got some work to do,” Cason said.

From Cafe to Gallery

The mother of all columns.

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* Art goes on.

The San Diego artist whose controversial artwork with the phrase “Heil Hitler” was removed from the Pannikin Coffee & Tea Cafe in La Jolla will have a monthlong show at the R.B. Stevenson Gallery in La Jolla, starting today.

Harley Gaber says his Pannikin piece will not be shown, but other paintings and collages of his will be, including one with the phrase “art nigger.”

Gaber says his aim is not to shock or offend but only to comment on the deterioration of modern society.

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* Opponents of the proposed SDG&E-Edison; merger are positive that all the talk about consumer savings is bunk.

Lee Grissom, president of the anti-merger Greater San Diego Chamber of Commerce, told reporters this week that, if there are any savings, he’ll use them to buy dinner for everyone at Lubach’s.

It helps if you remember that Lubach’s went out of business. Otherwise, forget it.


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