WEST CHESTER (March 22, 2019) – Uniforms are in. The field is being prepped and practice starts Saturday for about 100 girls in Exton Little League’s Softball program.

But they may not want to dust off their gloves and bats just yet. The entire softball season may be in jeopardy because of Sunoco/ETP’s Mariner East pipeline project.

Dave Stevenson, Exton Little League President, said from the beginning this was his fear – that construction on the pipeline, which impacts playing fields at Meadowbrook Manor Park – would interfere with the spring season of the league’s eight softball teams serving girls age 7 to 12.

“Our biggest concern is that work would happen during the spring season which is the busiest and most impactful time. And just today I got a call that they intended to start in two weeks – that’s opening day,” he said. “I find it completely unacceptable that they are making this announcement to us without any notice.”

According to Stevenson, he and Greg Pfeifer, the League’s Vice President for Softball, have been negotiating and communicating with Sunoco/ETP via Percheron, its contractor for land agent services for years, prior to this week’s sudden announcement.

“Were this to happen in the offseason, I would take it as an opportunity to get some field improvements [from Sunoco]. But one thing we’ve talked about from beginning is it not impacting our season,” Stevenson said. “This is just crazy.”

Pfeifer said that in his last communication in January with Bob Riley, a land agent with Percheron, he was assured that this was still the case – that construction wouldn’t start this spring nor impact the dozens of young athletes and their families looking forward to the softball season.

But all that changed this week when Sunoco/ETP reached out to the league’s field manager to announce it intended to start construction in two weeks and requested a meeting on Monday to discuss their construction plans.

Pfeifer echoed Stevenson’s comments and also noted the financial and logistical impact such a move would have on the volunteer little league program and others throughout the region.

“We’ve already spent $1,500 on dirt. We just had volunteers spread it. Saturday is our field maintenance day. We have community sponsors. We have registration fees. Uniforms have been purchased,” he said. “And we have a schedule with other little leagues. We negotiate with a school district. Other teams will be impacted because we won’t have a place for the girls to play.”

Pfeifer, too, said the league was more than willing to work with Sunoco/ETP from the beginning to try to minimize the impact of construction and hopefully get some benefit for its athletes before being completely blindsided this week. He again highlighted that the situation could have been completely avoided.

“This has been going on for years. We’ve been waiting and wondering. Now, it just couldn’t have come at a worst time. They could have told us in January or even February. They could have told us sooner and given us an opportunity to try to make alternative plans,” he said.

State Rep. Danielle Friel Otten said it was just another example of how Sunoco is a terrible partner for Pennsylvania.

“They do not respect or value our families or communities,” she said. “Knowing how excited my son is to begin his very first year of Little League, I can only imagine the disappointment these kids are feeling to have their season disrupted indefinitely, all for the construction of a pipeline carrying hazardous, volatile natural gas liquids.”

State Senator Andy Dinniman, a leading critic of the public safety, environmental protection, and property rights concerns associated with the construction of the Mariner East project, said this development was just another example of the complete lack of respect for local communities.

“Even for Sunoco/ETP, this is a new low – an all-time low. What’s more American than some kids playing baseball or softball? And they want us to put our community traditions and our family activities aside for a pipeline that’s carrying natural gas liquids to Europe?” he asked. “No company, no matter how big and powerful it thinks it is, should be threatening to kick kids off our playing fields. I say, ‘Stop this nonsense and play ball.’”

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For more information, including league contacts, contact Adam Cirucci at acirucci@pasenate.com

 

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