District 5 – Candidate Responses

NO RESPONSES from Charles Rodgers

What are your personal experiences with amateur and youth diamond sports in Minneapolis, such as baseball or softball? (ie. As a player, parent, or fan)

Justin Cermak – I am a huge baseball fan. I’d like to think I may be the official-unofficial, “Minneapolis Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) Baseball Candidate”. I’ve been to many stadiums and play fantasy baseball. I have played, do play, REC softball in both organized and unorganized leagues in Minneapolis and surrounding communities.

Steffanie Musich – My son participated in MPRB and MPS youth sports and I have played softball and kickball in the MPRB leagues.

What type of relationship do you think the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) should have with traveling sports organizations like 612 Fastpitch softball and MYBA (baseball) that serve Minneapolis residents?

Justin Cermak – I fully support 612 Fastpitch softball and MYBA and I would like to see the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) work hand-in-hand with these two organizations to get them the kind of fields and facilities the Minneapolis children need to stop the player and team “flight” to suburban facilities. I want to hear what those organizations need, and make sure they get it!

I would also like to add my support to town ball and adult baseball fields as well. Minneapolis town ball should have facilities that other communities envy.

Steffanie Musich – Traveling sports teams provide competitive sports experiences for youth and the park system should work to accommodate their practices and games as they do for other entities looking to schedule field time. Traveling sports organizations should be notified of openings on the Minneapolis Youth Sports Association.

Even though the number of U.S. kids playing baseball and softball combined increased by nearly 3 million between 2013 and 2018, (Source: ESPN/MLB), the SW Parks Master Plan eliminates almost half of the ballfields in Southwest Minneapolis (17 of the 36 ballfields), eliminates two of the three baseball diamonds that SWHS baseball uses for their three teams, and moves SWHS softball from Pershing, where it’s convenient and better fields than Linden Hills. Please describe your position on our request that the Southwest Parks Master Plan be amended to provide better access to diamonds, including reinstating diamonds that are currently slated for elimination.

Justin Cermak – There are a lot of problems with how MPRB classifies ballfields (and a lot of terrible ballfields in general). Many “fields” are back-to-back and not actually playable by two teams. Also, there are random “backstops” that are definitely NOT ballfields. If elected, I would stop the destruction of any “actual” baseball diamonds and more importantly renovate the ones we have (lighting, field conditions, grandstands, etc.).

Steffanie Musich – Master planning takes many users needs into consideration, resulting in broad use of park land for sports and other activities. I support the adopted service area master plans.

If elected, would you be willing to work with “Play Ball Minneapolis” to evaluate improvements in MPRB’s scheduling software and technology? For example, increasing visibility into field usage and ease of use for organizations that schedule games and practices at park facilities? Please explain your answer.

Justin Cermak – Yes. Working with “Play Ball Minneapolis” seems highly logical. New technology would help better quantify the parks usage and where resources could best be deployed.

Steffanie Musich – The MPRB just entered into a five year contract for scheduling software. The software should have more transparency to the public about what amenities are scheduled.

Are you familiar with the current MOU (memorandum of understanding) and shared use agreements in relation to diamond sports and/or athletics in general between the MPRB and Minneapolis Public Schools? If so, can you comment on any improvements that could be evaluated and/or ongoing discussions that might take place to improve communication?

Justin Cermak – I am familiar with MOU. I would like to make it my personal goal to be your “in” into the discussion to get better fields and facilities for Minneapolis softball and baseball kids.

Steffanie Musich – I am familiar with the MOU and shared use agreements with MPS. I would need more information to be able to answer this question knowledgeably. Where does Play Ball Minneapolis see deficiencies in the current process?

Anecdotally, stories of players who live in Minneapolis but play in programs in surrounding suburbs like St. Louis Park, Edina, Richfield Robbinsdale and St. Anthony are commonplace in youth sports. What should MPRB do, if anything, to address the flight of youth players to other cities?

Justin Cermak – As a softball player myself, I’ve had to travel to other cities to play ball. Look how long it took for MPRB to fix Bossen Field. Even after the re-design, it’s still a “meh” experience. Clearly the incumbent in District 5 has no idea what top notch facilities look like.

If I’ve personally left to play ball, I guess it isn’t anecdotal.

Steffanie Musich – As with other programs offered by the parks, youth sports offerings should be regularly assessed to identify opportunities for improvements.