July 10, 2008

"They think we’re a cult. People think we should be home playing 'Grand Theft Auto.'"

Kids build a Wiffle ball field on public land and — invoking the favor of adults who value old-fashioned fun — stand their ground when the neighbors go legal on them.


Dust Bunny Queen said...

I’m all for Wiffle ball and apple pie and baseball and the American flag, but there are plenty of fields in town they can use instead of building something in people’s backyard,” said Liz Pate, who is building a new house behind what’s now home plate. “If I come home at 6 at night after working all day, I want peace and quiet. I can’t have that. I have dozens of people behind my house playing Wiffle ball. If their parents think this is so great, let them play at their house.”

Says the lady who is disturbing her neighbors with the loud sounds of construction all day long on her "new" house. I bet the people who are staying home during the day would like some peace and quiet as well. Hypocrisy knows no bounds.

Good for the kids. They did something on their own that was positive, productive, creative and fun in building a temporary ball field to play outdoors this summer. Too bad that they also learned a valuable lesson that we have lost the ability to do those things in this society and are punished for doing so. Maybe if they sat on their butts and played World of Warcraft and ate Cheezy Poofs all day long they will better fit into our brave new world.

**egregious spelling errors corrected. :-(

Simon said...

Page one of the story says that the field is publicly-owned land. But the neighbors appear to believe that they have some kind of ownership stake: they "turn out to be not that much different from most suburbanites seeing their backyard go from their own to a quasi park full of teenagers from near and far. ... 'I’m all for Wiffle ball and apple pie and baseball and the American flag, but there are plenty of fields in town they can use instead of building something in people’s backyard,' said Liz Pate, who is building a new house behind what’s now home plate."

How is this different -- in terms of the neighbors' complaints, I mean, not in terms of whether the kids were in the right to adversely posses the lot -- from the situation where someone buys a house next to a vacant lot, gets used to thinking of the vacant lot as a part of their yard, and then gets their panties in a bunch a year later when the owner of said lot decide to develop it?

Paul Snively said...

Add me to the list of those who think that the neighbors expecting a lot "valued at $1.2 million" to remain undeveloped by somebody forever are the nutty ones here. Liz Pate, I'm sorry, sounds like a real piece of work. If it's peace and quiet all around she wants, she needs to not be building in Greenwich and should find someplace more rural.

blake said...

Do you see what happens?

Do you see what happens when you go outside?

Sounds pretty cool, actually. What kind of sourpuss wouldn't want to come home to kids playing whiffle (Wiffle(TM)) ball?

Might make for a good, non-ironic Norman Rockwell painting.

Triangle Man said...

Add me to the list of people who think that the whole point of Wiffle ball is that any chump can get a bat and ball for a couple of bucks and play it just about anywhere. Bully for the kids taking on an ambitious project, but there is no great principle of liberty underlying their desire to co-opt public land and build on it for their amusement. Take down the wall and let the thistle grow and they'll still be able to play.

downtownlad said...

The kids don't have a right to do this. And they know that.

We used to play wiffle ball in front of one neighbor's house and they used to call the police on us (we were about 10 years old). Of course we hated them and thought they were extremely strange and coated their house with toilet paper on Mischief night, but we recognized that they had a right to call the police when the wiffle ball rolled onto their lawn.

So rather than making a legal issue about it, we just moved wiffle field halfway down the street, and built a full blown field in front of another neighbor's house. We painted all of the bases on the street. We painted a pitcher's mound. We painted an entire wiffle park. And we KNEW it was illegal. We KNEW the neighbors would complain, and we knew the town would back them up. And we were completely prepared to mock those neighbors as well. But funnily enough, they never complained, didn't seem to care, and we played on that field until we went to college.

So I don't sympathize with these kids. They built a field illegally. They got caught. They should have just done the decent thing and thrown eggs at these houses and moved wiffle field somewhere else.

MadisonMan said...

Adults are such control freaks.

Still, you can't build things in a park and expect to get away with it. This is a classic example of Better to ask forgiveness than ask permission. It wasn't a vacant lot owned by some absent landowner.

If I were a neighbor of the park, however, I'd appreciate that it was cleared of brush and weeds -- prime resting places for mosquitoes.

The compromise is: Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall! The neighbors will have to get use to living next to a park -- it was a park when they moved in, after all. I suspect that Ms. Pate has her a/c on when she gets home, so how will the "noise" of a wiffle ball game disturb her?

save_the_rustbelt said...

I am glad I grew up, and was able to raise my children, in a region where common sense and some sense of neighborhood still exist.

People on the east coast, especially the affluent ones, are genuinely different. They experience culture shock when they come to the midwest, and real culture when they land in the plains or western states.

Easterners have trouble understanding people who are friendly (for no economic advantage) and people who are neighborly.

Palladian said...

"They built a field illegally. They got caught. They should have just done the decent thing and thrown eggs at these houses and moved wiffle field somewhere else."

The best suggestion so far.

bearbee said...

Let them go the Flint, Michigan route.
Droop their draws and mug people.

Michael_H said...

Man, I wish those kids had built their field of dreams near my back yard. I'd be out there after dinner, sitting in my lawn chair enjoying an iced tea, cheering them on.

Nothing beats the sound of kids playing baseball (or softball or wiffle ball).

I might even donate a few bucks to become a sponsor, if they'd paint my name on part of the outfield fence.

Liz Pate, get a life.

gophermomeh said...

Reminiscing about similar situations from my own childhood, it was always a good idea to keep a low profile.

Hopefully, they can work out a compromise.

Smilin' Jack said...

Geez, more lawyer-bashing. People just don't understand how lawyers can be a force for good.

What these kids should have done:

1. Play wiffle ball in the old field with the poison ivy; get a few rashes.

2. Sue the city for zillions of dollars for their physical and psychological pain and suffering.

3. Use the proceeds to buy the land and hire a contractor to build the field.

Not only would they have a better field, they'd have a practical lesson on how the law is supposed to work.

ron st.amant said...

Of course in Connecticut, the land of eternal insurance companies, is the word 'liability' the first on everyone's lips.

downtownlad said...

Why thank you Palladian. :)

sandy shoes said...

Boo hoo, Liz, boo hoo.

Paddy O. said...

"They should have just done the decent thing and thrown eggs at these houses and moved wiffle field somewhere else."

Brilliant. Love this. That's exactly how it should be.

This is a sentence that needs to be saved for both the suggestion and the phrasing.

Methadras said...

ron st.amant said...

Of course in Connecticut, the land of eternal insurance companies, is the word 'liability' the first on everyone's lips.

Of course it's Connecticut. What is the first word that comes out of peoples mouths when they are born there? WAAAAHHHHHH!!!

bill said...

Good for the kids, but in regards to this:

We’d all like our own Field of Dreams, but it’s worth remembering that Mr. Costner’s was in an Iowa cornfield.

The field was private land owned by a fictional Ray Kinsella (not Mr. Costner, who was playing a character in a movie), not public. That seems a more important distinction than it being in Iowa. Maybe one day we'll see the sequel where Kinsella's neighbors sue him for an improper business on land zoned for farming. Not to mention the traffic and inadequate parking. There'll also be a visit from the health department about lack of rest room facilities.

George said...

My middle school bus stop was on a heavily trafficked two-lane road lined by osage orange (mock orange) trees.

The mock orange's fruit is the size of a grapefruit and as hard as a softball.

In the fall, we rolled those babies into oncoming traffic. Cars going 50 mph.

Highway bowling

No one complained.

reader_iam said...

Bill: To the contrary, there's plenty of parking, or at least there was, at the Field of Dreams in Dyersville (where the movie was filmed for that piece of it). It went on to become a tourist attraction, although it since has declined and changed, and the semi-pro Ghost Players team played their last game last September. (Link.

I haven't been there in years, but this does remind me that we should shoot up to that area so our kid can visit the National Farm Toys Machine. I don't think he'd get the Field of Dreams thing.

bill said...

reader_iam, the real tourist trap never experienced the crushing crowds depicted in either the movie or the book.

reader_iam said...

OK, though 65,000 visitors a year as of 2005 ain't nothin', either, given where we're talking about.

Superdad said...

The death of fun. Should they have built a wall? - probably not. But the fact that the kids learned neighbors were upset from town officials and/or lawyers is just asinine. Do people no longer talk to their neighbors?

Also, why does the village own a drainage area for other folks private developments? May be a compromise is to continue to not charge these neighbors for this free public improvement to their lots in exchange for the kids continued right to be kids and have fun.

Bissage said...

It’s on public land, right?

The kids should have come to me for legal advice before they got started.

I would have told them to build one of those roadside shrine thingies and name the ballpark after whoever’s featured on the “In Memoriam” page in their high school yearbook.

They could call it “Guy-We-Never-Heard-Of-Who-Apparently-Got-Hit-By-A-Drunk-Driver Memorial Ballpark.”

MadisonMan said...

At Wannamaker's and Sak's and Klein's
A Lesson I've been taught
You can't make alterations
On a field you haven't bought

In every vacant lot empty
From Borneo to Rome
Do not erect Green Monster
'til you call that field your home

Randy said...

“BACK before we lost our collective minds and began shrieking with horror at the thought of kids having fun on their own (as in not part of an official league or otherwise organized activity), they used to do things like find a vacant field, turn it into a makeshift diamond and spend glorious hours in the summer sun,” the local newspaper, Greenwich Time, wrote in an editorial in support of the youths on Wednesday.

I really liked that part, but I'm inclined to agree with DTL's suggested remedy.

At the same time, I agree with whoever suggested the area was in need of aggressive mosquito abatement measures, and earnestly hope that the city will mow everything down to a height of 1/2 an inch; install a very large drain; and severely trim all the neighbors' foliage encroaching on, or threatening to thwart the intended use of, the city's property. With any luck, or a good design, the drain will be excessively noisy. At that time, the city should offer to sell the public land to the two neighbors who want it left alone for their personal & private use. $1.2 million each sounds fair to me, with a clause guaranteeing perpetural indivisability and forbidding development or so much as a barbeque pit within for a thousand years.

paul a'barge said...

Dudes and Dudettes,
I spent my high school years in Connecticut. I've been to Greenwich.

Nothing in this article is hyperbole.

Go back and re-read the article and marvel that the lead kid involved is Italian. In Greenwich, CT that says everything.

This is all about class.

Revenant said...

There's something offensive about people referring to public land as "their backyard". No, the land they *own* is "their backyard". This land is "an adjacent lot".

Paddy O. said...

Funny thing. I'm reading through the Aubrey/Maturin books by Patrick O'Brian and one of the plot issues is quite related to this.


"The process of enclosure was sometimes accompanied by force, resistance, and bloodshed and remains among the most controversial areas of agricultural and economic history in England."

Blue Moon said...

I am trying to think of a non expletive noun as a descriptor for this woman. None come to mind, unless the one ending in "bag" is not an expletive.

Larry J said...

“I’m all for Wiffle ball and apple pie and baseball and the American flag, but there are plenty of fields in town they can use instead of building something in people’s backyard,” said Liz Pate, who is building a new house behind what’s now home plate.

A classic example of NIMBY if there ever was one.

Let's see, some kids take some neglected vacant land that's overgrown with weeds and poison ivy and make it something useful. They're outside engaging in safe, fun, unsupervised physical activity. That will not do! No, they should shut up, stay inside, vegatate in front of their TVs, and engage in safe sex.

Middle Class Guy said...

Good for the kids and I hope they prevail. Those so called neighbors should be ashamed of themselves; of course people like that have no shame.

Maybe the kids should just have started hanging around on the public way wearing gansta style clothing and playing rap music loud while dancing.

The neighbors are nothing more than over educated, over fed, and over blown poltroons.

Michael_H said...

Justice would be the kids suing Liz Pate for messing up their playing field by building a house on an adjacent property.

And winning.

As an aside, my childhood playing field was adjacent to an apple orchard. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is more fun that playing baseball with apples that have fallen off the tree at the end of the growing season.

Clobbering a fastball leaves the batter in a cloud of apple mist that covers and permeates clothing and skin, and provides loud laughter that lingers for days.

Kirk Parker said...


You had neighbors who called the police on 10-year-olds because a wiffle ball rolled onto their lawn? Really????

Hmmm...... that could explain a lot, actually. :-(

Regarding the original article: unless that's Andre the Giant playing outfield in that picture, there's no way that outfield fence is 12 feet tall.