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Marshall strikes out at meeting

(ran PC edition)

The County Planning Commission decides that the former Cy Young Award winner cannot run his teaching practice from his back yard.

During his Major League Baseball pitching career, Mike Marshall defied baseball owners as a players union representative.

In his post-retirement career as a college baseball coach, Marshall wrangled with athletic directors, losing a couple of jobs in the process.

On Wednesday, it was Pasco County's turn to feel the heat of Marshall's defiance.

The County Planning Commission unanimously refused to allow Marshall to run a baseball pitching school from his backyard at the corner of Vinson and Plum avenues in Zephyrhills.

Not that the decision mattered from Marshall's point of view.

Over at least the last month, he has accumulated an estimated $8,600 in fines, or $250 a day, for flouting zoning rules that ban private schools in residential neighborhoods.

Despite the commission's ruling, Marshall vowed to continue training young pitchers until the county drags him to court.

"They're a duplicitous bunch of liars," the former Los Angeles Dodger and 1974 Cy Young Award winner said of county planning officials.

"I'll continue to do it there," he told the Times. "The fines are irrelevant. They can't fine me for doing my hobby."

Marshall began training young pitchers in the back yard of his property last summer, installing pitcher's mounds, a swimming pool and rubber backstops.

Most of his students, he said, are high school graduates who hope Marshall's arm-building expertise will help them win college baseball scholarships.

Marshall insists the operation isn't a business and thus isn't governed by the restrictive zoning. The aspiring pitchers pay for the rooms they rent in Marshall's duplex, but otherwise don't pay him for the service.

"These are my friends that I have in my yard, just like I'm playing horseshoes or any other activity," he told planning commissioners before they denied him a zoning exemption.

That statement was among the many to draw snickers from Marshall's Zephyrhills neighbors who attended the meeting.

Neighbors such as Denise Kessey, who lives next door to Marshall, said the pitching is a noisy nuisance that threatens property values.

"If he wants to coach these guys, that's fine and great," Kessey said. "We just don't want him to do it in our neighborhood."

Marshall came to the meeting with an envelope stuffed with information for each planning commission member. He even brought a videotape that he said proved his pitchers weren't as noisy as alleged.

Marshall accused his neighbors of trying to sour young pitchers' dreams of the major leagues.

"These young men come to me for that dream," he said. "That's what I'm sharing with them."

Fred Lowndes, the county's zoning administrator, wasn't impressed.

Lowndes said he visited Marshall's school three times to try to resolve the dispute, but decided the school couldn't stay.

"He tried to browbeat me into changing my decision, but what he presented didn't persuade me," Lowndes said. "He's full of his own self-importance."

Lowndes said Marshall's defiance, including failure to pay the fines, will land him in circuit court.

Kessey doesn't think Marshall will give up easily. "In a way, we're happy about the planning commission's decision," she said. "But as Mr. Marshall has exhibited in the past, he doesn't care what the law says."

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