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Mitchell and New London need to keep working on this softball field issue

New London – It has been the summer of their discontent, a Shakespearean wink and nod to the classic line from Richard III, detailing scandals, scandals everywhere here in the 06320, from the schools to the Port Authority.

Joining the morass last week was the disappointing news that Mitchell College ended negotiations with the city for a lease at the city-owned Toby May Park, where it had pitched the idea of a $500,000 softball field also available for New London High School and youth athletes.

It’s too easy here to join in the choruses of apocalyptic growls masked as “here we go again” and “only in New London.” But not this time. This isn’t over. Because it shouldn’t be.

There’s too much win-win here for this to end in lose-lose. And that’s why I’m begging New London Mayor Mike Passero and Mitchell College interim Co-President Mary-Jane McLaughlin to return to the table forthwith.

The end of summer looms. The first day of school, a de facto New Year’s Day for many of us, is almost here. Summer’s end and school’s beginning symbolically issues the return to routines and schedules. And I fear that as autumn life happens beyond the more deliberate, harmonious pace of summer, this project becomes what Billy Joel sang about in The Entertainer: put in the back on the discount rack, like another can of beans.

My understanding, in speaking to sources from both sides, is that negotiations stalled over an insurance/liability issue. Essentially: who should be responsible for what? It is a fair question. It merits further debate. It requires compromise. And perhaps a balancing act on that tenuous piece of real estate called the happy medium.

Can we make this happen?

It was either eerily coincidental or the universe’s not-so-subtle directive this past Sunday that retired pastor Florence Clarke of Walls Clarke Temple AME Zion Church spoke at Pequot Chapel, in the shadows of where the field would sit on the Mitchell campus. Florence, who perfectly parlays the concepts of utter brilliance with being a gentle soul, spoke of benefits of risk-taking in everyday life.

Her words still resonate nearly a week later, because some risk-taking here — good faith negotiating and maybe giving a little to get a little back — would be for the benefit of little kids, high school kids and college kids. The exact people our leaders need to serve and protect first.

The original plan would give Mitchell priority use of the field and, according to a draft memorandum of agreement, would have allowed the New London Little League use of the field for practices and games at times that did not conflict with the college’s schedule. The high school softball team also would have had occasional use of the field, likely after Mitchell’s season ends in late April/early May.

To the people of New London: Don’t get greedy here. Mitchell is doing something very nice in the spirit of community partnership.

To the people of Mitchell: Community partnership is important enough to inspire a return to the table. Remember: Your $32,000 tax bill to the city almost reaches Connecticut College levels of sweetheart deals.

The stalled negotiations represent what we’re good at now in the roaring 2000s: everyone on their soap boxes shouting damnation at one another, all in the name of being right.

This just in: Just because you’re right doesn’t mean you’re being productive. Or moving anything forward for the greater good.

Now it’s time to head back toward the village green with the full understanding that the voiceless — the kids — are the ones who benefit the most from this.

Remember: This is discussion about a softball field. Once again: a softball field. Not exactly international espionage. Reasonable people ought to be able to discuss such benign topics and arrive at some kind of compromise.

The city could use some good news. So honor Yogi a little here and show it ain’t over till it’s over. Positive change needs to begin somewhere. Let’s get back to the table and make this work.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro



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