The Oak Park Little League is back at the bat

The neighborhood’s youth team considers its future after a shooting leaves the community shaken

An eerie quiet gripped McClatchy Park just minutes before game time for Oak Park Little League on April 19. Earlier in the day, league president Tomi Gomez had met with City Councilman Jay Schenirer, police and others to discuss her league’s future after a shooting at the park just one week before left the community shaken.

Police and community leaders have promised new safety measures, but Gomez says they should have already been put into place.

On April 12, an 18-year-old man was shot multiple times in the parking lot behind Crump-Blackwell Field while a game was in progress. The victim is expected to survive; meanwhile police have offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the shooting, which remains unsolved.

“It was not connected to Oak Park Little League,” said Sgt. Bryce Heinlein, a spokesman for the Sacramento Police Department. “We believe it had to do with gang activity.”

Whatever the reason, it’s had a chilling effect on the league. Oak Park Little League regularly hosts games against four other leagues at Crump-Blackwell Field. After the shooting, organizers from three of the leagues—Tahoe, Parkway and Florin—informed Gomez they’ll no longer come to McClatchy Park.

Now, as players for Oak Park Little League prepared to face Airport Little League, Gomez stood near the field, watching.

“I want to hope people come back,” she said of her meeting with the city.

In recent years, McClatchy Park underwent a $2.8 million renovation. Some changes have come slower, however.

“This park has had a history of challenges,” Heinlein said.

At the April 19 meeting, the city proposed moving Oak Park Little League to other fields in the neighborhood, such as Sacramento Charter High School. The league’s organizers balked at the suggestion.

“It’s really their choice and they decided to stay,” Schenirer said.

In the wake of the shooting, the city has adopted a number of precautionary measures. Schenirer said the parking lot will be closed at all times except for games for the foreseeable future. The city is also considering installing a 360-degree camera near the baseball diamond as well as additional fencing.

There will also be an increased police presence. Although there’d been a police officer in the parking lot on the day of the shooting, the officer left shortly before the incident. Now, on this first game since the incident, two officers watched as games got underway.

Schenirer says he is comfortable with games continuing to be played at Crump-Blackwell Field.

“We think it’s safe,” Schenirer said.

Gomez, for her part, says she’s been requesting more police for the Oak Park Little League for years.

“I just want safety for my kids.”