Editor’s Note: This letter is in reference to a story that ran in the Sept. 25 edition of the Alligator titled “Gainesville Youth Baseball’s parent-run board faces setbacks.” Dave Mitchell, a main source in the story, gave a false name to the reporter and misrepresented the nature of the baseball league’s conflicts. When the reporter contacted one of the league’s board members, she refused to further explain the situation and didn’t deny the notes the reporter read to her over the phone. Once the facts of Mitchell’s identity and criminal background came to light, the Alligator removed the story from its website and printed a retraction. The Alligator deeply regrets the inaccuracies in the original story.
It is a shame that I have write to you in regards to an article which ran in the Alligator on Sept. 25, both in the print and the online versions. I have been an avid reader of the Alligator for a number of years, and I have to honestly say that I am very disappointed on many levels with that article. There are obvious indications of lack of fact-checking and research. The writing style is just “all over the place” with no real theme to the article. I am appreciative that the article was removed, and a correction ran the next day, after fact-checking too little, too late.
The first two paragraphs of the article, describing a young baseball player at bat, was very descriptive and was indeed well-written. That, unfortunately, is where the accuracy of what was reported ends. I can say that the author of the article did not bother to contact me in order to research her article. I am not only a founding board member of the league, but I am also the acting president. I believe that my input would not only have proved insightful but was also mandatory in your staff’s protocol in preparing an informative and accurate article.
The article is based on representations — or misrepresentations — of a gentleman by the name of Dave Mitchell “who has two children in the youth baseball league.” I assure you 100 percent that there is no such person associated with the league by the name of Dave Mitchell. After the article was published, I contacted the staff writer and editor as to the contents of the story. The staff writer assured me that the person she interviewed insisted he was Dave Mitchell, and she stated that he even spelled his name twice for her. The person that she was referring to was a gentleman by the name of Dave Mitchum who was involved in the league as a parent of players who played for an independent organization know as the Gainesville Cobras. Had the staff writer had the real name of her source she could have Googled him as part of her research. The Gainesville Cobras is Mr. Mitchum’s organization, which is incorporated as a for-profit group. The Gainesville Cobras registered for the Spring 2012 season with Gainesville Youth Baseball at a reduced fee, due to the fact that they were already organized and had uniforms. One of the benefits of registering with Gainesville Youth Baseball is that the registration fee covers a full uniform for the children. However, Mr. Mitchum charged each individual parent a rate higher than what the league charged. Yes, he profited from the registrations.
The article stated “some parents and coaches have complained of mismanagement.” I have not received any complaints of mismanagement. There was a direct quote from Mr. Mitchell (sic) in regards to “... games canceled the day of with no prior warning. They’ve changed our game times. We’ll show up and the other team tells us we forfeited.” If you have the opportunity to speak with any other league in our district of the Babe Ruth League or any other league in the United States, you will find out that game time changes and rescheduling happen regularly. There may be field issues, umpire issues and teams may not be able to fully participate due to school function scheduling that occurs well into the season, after the game schedule is created. This is not unusual. Mr. Mitchum should be well aware of this, as parents have complained that his travel teams have had tournaments canceled at the last moment. These parents are more upset because they have had a financial investment in the form of a prepaid tournament fee. As to being told that they forfeited, I am not quite sure to what that refers. Is that the mismanagement spoken about? Was it mismanagement when the parents of that Cobras team were asked to volunteer operating the league’s concession stand, and they would not?
Jason Upshaw, a coach of the Cobras, was quoted saying that “[p]arents are taking their kids and money and going other places.” Where? To the Cobras to pay high “dues” and rarely play games? The league is pleased to say that there are seven teams this fall. In light of competition with the start of new school ventures and other sporting seasons such as football, basketball and cheerleading, we are very pleased with that number.
I cannot speak as to the quotes from Michelle Park, assistant director of the city’s Park and Recreation Department. I can tell you that when the funding for youth athletics was reduced in the summer of 2010, a group of parents was approached to run the league under the city’s sponsorship. This sponsorship included a facilities agreement as to use of the fields at Westside and Greentree parks.
As for the Gainesville Cobras being in the league for the past few years and leaving because of trouble in the league, they weren’t. Dave Mitchum formed the team without any motivation whatsoever except how he can profit from it. There is only one issue about which the Gainesville Cobras, i.e., Dave Mitchum, is concerned. He needs a place to practice for no cost. Fine, practice to your heart’s content on any available field in the city’s parks system. There are plenty of alternatives available to his group.
Oh, I get it. The mismanagement is the fact that Mr. Mitchum cannot use the city’s fields at his disposal and gratis for the operation of his business, since our season has commenced. Maybe that is why he got so upset at Victoria Clark’s request not to be on the field during a league team’s practice. As for the alleged text, did the staff writer actually see this text? I doubt it. I have seen it, and there was no threat to contact the police. Honestly, I am not surprised the police weren’t called after Mr. Mitchum caused a scene in front of parents and especially the children, being extremely aggressive in confronting Clark. She said nothing during this tirade.
There was no reason this article could not have been thoroughly researched and fact-checked. Was there really such a pressing deadline? What really was the newsworthiness of this article? You are so concerned with facing “setbacks.” What about the strides that were made in this young, parent-run league? What about the care for the community in providing a safe environment for children to participate in organized sports? Did you know Gainesville Youth Baseball extends full and partial scholarship for those members of the community who are less-fortunate? Probably not. I did not realize that the Alligator strove to be in the ranks of The National Enquirer. Certainly, with pieces written like this, that is where it is headed.