UPDATE: This article has been amended to correct the baseball organization the young player was a part of, and to reflect that the player was taken to the hospital, not hospitalized.
TULARE, Calif. (KGPE) — A young baseball player was sent to the hospital after coming in contact with a drug needle found on a playing field, said a release from the Tulare Baseball Association.
The incident occurred at Centennial Park on J Street near Prosperity Avenue in Tulare. Officials say children as young as four years old play on the field, which is neighbored by Tulare’s Boys and Girls Club, an organization that hosts after-school activities.
Homeless encampments share grounds with the children’s practice field, filled with tents, mattresses, shopping carts, dogs, and debris.
“We all feel sympathetic for the homeless and their plight and situation,” says Jeff Beck, board of directors for the Boys and Girls Club. “There has to be a better place for them that’s not 100 yards from a Boys and Girls Club and 150 yards from a ballpark.”
Parents were notified by the Tulare Baseball Association that a child had been taken to the hospital after finding a needle on the baseball field and being poked with it.
“You hate to say you’re not shocked, because you’re not shocked,” says Joey Pursell, a team manager.
Parents say that despite several trespassing signs posted in the park, an incident like this is not guaranteed to be the last.
“Quite honestly it’s not going to stop them from trespassing, they’re still doing that — cutting fences and getting through,” says Robyn Leonardo, a concerned parent. “That’s how things are getting in the ballpark that shouldn’t be there.”
The letter from the baseball association to parents describes the unwanted trespassing as “an ongoing battle that we have been struggling with for years, with little to no help from our city council.”
“As someone heavily invested in baseball, you don’t want to see that at your ballpark,” says Pursell. “I have memories playing with my buddies and I don’t remember looking for needles.”
Parents say they’re going to do their best to avoid other incidents by speaking to their children.
“I can have that talk with my 11-year-old or 9-year-old, and they understand,” explains Beck. “But my 6-year-old daughter doesn’t understand, and so that was a difficult conversation to have.”
Still, they hope to see the city become involved soon.
“We’ve had enough as parents, we’ve had enough, something needs to be done to keep our children safe and it needs to happen now,” says Leonardo.
Officials from the City of Tulare have not commented on the incident due to the active investigation, but they do note that a recent $1.5 million grant was received by the City to address homelessness. Centennial Park is expected to receive some of those resources, City officials say.