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Oakland schools at odds over sports fields


There’s a turf battle between two Oakland schools — baseball and soccer players at odds over space. The showdown is over Ricky Henderson Field at Oakland International High School. There is a baseball diamond, but nowhere for the soccer team to practice and play.

They’re just coming off an appearance in the state rec league finals, but the soccer team is without its own field. They practice on cement.

“I think here in the Bay Area, we have enough access to resources that we shouldn’t have kids playing on concrete; that’s not something that’s safe for our kids,” soccer coach Ben Gucciardi said.

That’s why the students of Oakland’s International High School started a petition and created their own video asking for help to build a new soccer field.

“So that we don’t have to travel to another school to play soccer,” player Yasser Alwan said.

The problem is that most of the space at International is already taken by another school’s field of dreams — Oakland Tech’s.

Seven years ago, Oakland Tech built a big, beautiful baseball facility named after Tech alum Rickey Henderson. A program that had been suffering was rejuvenated by the grassroots effort, which began when the site at 45th and Webster was a closed middle school.

The facility re-opened as International High School in 2007, right about the same time Tech finished its new field.

Now, to accommodate both sports, the school district has come up with a plan that would require moving Tech’s right field fence in. But the baseball coach says that would make the field too small for high school athletes.

“We want the facility to be seen as legitimate, because it is a really great facility, and we don’t want to undermine that,” district spokesperson Troy Flint said. “But I don’t think we should look at it as sacred to the point where it can’t be modified or adjusted.”

The Oakland school board will ultimately decide how to divvy up the field at an upcoming meeting.

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