For nearly 30 years, Milpitas North Valley PAL Softball, formerly known as North Valley Milpitas Bobby Sox, has been instrumental in shaping the lives of young girls. A recreational league, the organization offers opportunities to girls ages 4-16 to learn and play softball, no matter their experience level.
Since 1996, the league has used the fields located at Russell Middle School for practices and games.
However, earlier this year, the league started to hear murmurings of the possibility of losing access to their space at the fields…
“As a softball community we heard tidbits about changes but nothing was really told to us; we weren’t involved in that discussion,” said league President Tina Ortiz.
Back in 1996, the City of Milpitas and the Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD) entered into a Joint Use agreement, which gave the City the ability to rent out certain MUSD spaces. The school district and City’s most recent contract with the softball league was for use of what they termed “the Russell Middle School Bobby Sox Complex.” It involved renting out four softball fields.
In 2018, Bond Measure AA was approved by Milpitas voters. The applicable bonds, totaling $284 million, were for the modernization of MUSD schools, with the goal of making them safer and more secure. The plans for the bond money include putting in a new track, which would mean that two of the softball fields at Russell would need to be removed, leaving the league without a proper space in which to practice and host games.
Soon after COVID hit, Ortiz and other leaders in the league were informed by representatives of the City of Milpitas that the fields at Russell would no longer be available to them, and that the construction process would soon begin to convert the area into a track.
“Thomas Russell and Rancho students, staff and parents were surveyed and agreed track & field with soccer facilities would improve the quality of physical education for 1500 students for 180+ days per year during the school day. Additionally, it minimizes transportation costs and allows for a realistic track practice to better prepare middle school athletes for high school. At Russell Middle School in addition to the new field, two existing softball fields will be upgraded and potentially ready for use in the spring of 2021,” wrote Cheryl Jordan in a statement to The Beat.
As of now, the Milpitas North Valley PAL Softball league is left without a space to play and unsure of what the future holds.
“This is usually the time we strategize and plan for the next season. But we don’t know where we’re going to be next year. We don’t know what field we’re going to be using. So that makes it a challenge for people to buy in and commit to playing softball here when there is no location,” Ortiz said.
A typical softball season goes from March to August. Practices were always held at the Russell location Monday through Friday; and games were hosted at Russell all day Saturday, with night games at Cardoza Park or Gill Park. Ortiz estimates that about 150 girls play a season.
Many parents are dismayed by the fact that the upcoming season might not happen. They cite the softball program as a major factor in contributing to their daughters’ understanding of teamwork, feelings of self-confidence, and cultivation of self-esteem.
“We made friends that turned into family and players that turned into college athletes with a scholarship, including my daughter who attends SDCC. We were part of the board and put a lot of time into running it and making it a safe fun place to play for these girls. I would hate to see it all be taken away,” shared Lupe Mejias, whose daughter benefited tremendously from the program.
Another parent wrote a testimonial for the league, making the case for the importance of the program: “Softball isn’t just about playing and winning games. It teaches girls so many important life lessons. Softball teaches confidence, self-esteem, teamwork, to never give up no matter how hard the situation is, sportsmanship, life isn’t fair, you’re going to strike out every now and then so let go of mistakes, winning isn’t everything but wanting to win is, and that hard work will eventually pay off. These are reasons why Milpitas NV PAL Softball has been such an important part of my daughter’s life and why I hope softball is saved in Milpitas,” said Michelle Martinez-Rojas.
Ortiz’s own daughter, who is 12, has been playing with the league since she was 4. This is Ortiz’s first year as President; she has also served as equipment manager for a season, and was a coach prior to that.
She and other league parents have been sending emails to the City and school district asking for a resolution. They’ve also been making public comments about the issue at City meetings, and participating in Town Hall discussions with the City’s Park and Recs department.
Director of Recreation and Community Services Renee Lorentzen is confident that the situation will soon be resolved. In an email to The Beat, she wrote: “City staff has met with Milpitas Unified School District staff to discuss the Bobby Sox fields at Russell Middle School. MUSD staff are working on long term solutions for softball facilities on other MUSD properties and City staff are currently assessing interim locations for softball play for the 2021 season as a short term solution.”
And in a conversation with Mayor Rich Tran, the mayor mentioned the possibility of a new location at another school…
“I continue to stand behind our Milpitas softball community where the roots run as deep as any history in Milpitas. We are working diligently with the school board. And I see a very promising solution that we can find a new location that’s equal or better to the site at Russell. Interestingly enough, it’s very likely to be Rancho,” said Mayor Tran.
Whatever happens, Ortiz and the rest of the league are hoping for an answer soon.
“We’re just in limbo right now,” Ortiz said.
The City and school district are having a Collaborative meeting about field options for the league at 4pm today (October 23). Go here for the Agenda and Zoom link.