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PROSPECT OF 'SKINNED' INFIELDS PERTURBS LITTLE LEAGUE PRESIDENT

The Cleveland Hill Little League Association is not satisfied with the school district's plan to leave the association's baseball diamonds "skinned," said league President Paul Gemmati.

The board decided last week not to add $12,000 to $15,000 to the district's budget for capital projects, which would have ensured that grass would grow on the infield portion of the two new diamonds.

Gemmati said having weedy grass in the outfield is fine but having no grass on the infield is not.

"We've taken a lot of hits with this already," Gemmati said. "We just want back what we had."

Through the years, the Little League has struggled to find and keep ball diamonds in the densely populated suburbs. After losing rented fields at Genesee Street and Harlem Road, the association finally found a home when the town helped it fund construction of two fields behind Cleveland Hill School.

But the district's reconstruction plans threw the association a curve. Both fields were to be out of play until outside construction work could be completed. But reworking the construction plan gave back one diamond and the promise of the other to be ready for the 2001 season.

Now, Gemmati said, the district is backing out of an agreement to build those diamonds with grass infields.

"There are 400 kids playing in this league," Gemmati said, "and they are not going to be happy playing on dirt infields."

School Board President Robert Polino said there has been a miscommunication. Polino said he thought that Gemmati understood the board's dilemma and was satisfied with its decision.

Polino said the original plan for the fields changed when the board was hit with an unexpected $45,000 drainage expense. That further bloated the $28.5 million capital project that already was over budget.

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