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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Webster Groves Team Cancels CYC Game in University City Over "Safety" Concerns

Posted By on Tue, May 10, 2016 at 6:15 AM

A Catholic Youth Council baseball game in Wisconsin. - PHOTO COURTESY OF FLICKR/KRISTINA ZUIDEMA
  • Photo courtesy of Flickr/Kristina Zuidema
  • A Catholic Youth Council baseball game in Wisconsin.

A Catholic Youth Council kindergarten baseball game set for University City's Metcalfe Park was yanked off the schedule just hours before the game Saturday — with the coach's wife at Mary Queen of Peace telling the other team the area near the Loop was just too dangerous.

Located at 820 Kingsland, Metcalfe Park is just north of Delmar Boulevard. It's been used for a decades as a practice field for Our Lady of Lourdes, which was hosting the team from Webster Groves.

The suggestion that University City might be too dangerous for kids in Webster Groves had many Lourdes parents spitting mad. Claire Schaeffer LeGrand, whose husband Ben is the coach of the Lourdes team, wrote an angry Facebook response that drew more than 100 shares over the weekend.

"What did you think might happen? That your darling boys would have to dodge bullets while they round the bases?" she wrote. "That they *gasp* might see people who don't look exactly like they do? Tell me. I'd love to know."


Fr. John Vien, the pastor at Mary Queen of Peace, tells the Riverfront Times that he first heard about the incident after hearing from friends who'd, yes, seen LeGrand's post on Facebook. He was immediately concerned.

But when he contacted his athletic director, he quickly found out the situation was a bit more complicated.

As it turns out, his parish had not pulled the plug, nor had there been multiple parents with concerns. The coach's wife was apparently the only one who felt the area was dangerous — and she'd acted on Friday night without consulting others first.

Of the woman, Vien says, "She has a lot of remorse." (She declined comment to the RFT yesterday.)

While Vien blames social media, in part, for blowing up a relatively minor incident, he understands why people are reacting so strongly. After years based in the city, he agrees that University City is not his idea of a dangerous area. "I don't share her concerns," he says, "but that's my experience. This woman had a different experience."

Of the firestorm that followed, he adds, "It just goes to show how much these things can snowball."

LeGrand says her Facebook message came, in part, because she was so shocked. She and her husband were at a dinner party when they got a series of messages about canceling the game and then heard the coach's wife profess that "myself and other parents do not feel comfortable taking our sons to that park to play," as LeGrand recalls it.

"She said, 'We are concerned for our sons' safety," LeGrand recalls. Then she offered to reschedule the game — in Webster Groves.

LeGrand says she and her husband were "flabbergasted" — to the point that they consulted other members of the dinner party. "These were people who don't live in the neighborhood," she says. "We asked, 'Is it us? Are we missing something?'" 

But LeGrand says she feels much better about hearing from the athletic director at Mary Queen of Peace. "Now knowing that none of the other parents knew she was doing that, let's play this game," she says. "Let's get together."

Fr. Vien agrees. "The adults are talking about having a beer, and a lemonade for the kids. That's going to be a good thing."

They're still not sure of the date. But both LeGrand and Vien confirmed one thing: The game will take place at Metcalfe Park.

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