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Old marijuana conviction snuffs out proposal to rename Miami-Dade baseball complex

@PatriciaMazzei

Miami-Dade County commissioners were not so high about naming a portion of a West Kendall park Tuesday after a youth baseball coordinator who was once convicted of a pot-related charge.

The late Al Engle was the former president of the Kendall Hammocks Optimist baseball program and, according to Commissioner Juan C. Zapata, who knew him, was beloved by the community.

But in 1983, a U.S. district court in Illinois found Engle, who was born in 1936, guilty of conspiracy to distribute marijuana, a background search by a commission auditor found. (The search also found some financial issues, such as liens, that commissioners said mattered little to them.)

Yet the federal drug conviction, while more than three decades old, sparked opposition on the board, with all but two commissioners on the dais saying they couldn't support the "Al Engle Baseball Complex" name at Hammocks Community Park.

"Parks are for children, and children will learn the history of the person," Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa said.

Zapata, who proposed the name change, stood by his legislation despite the finding, saying commissioners should not judge a person by a single mistake.

"I want to look at a man or woman, the totality of their existence and their life, and their dedication to what they did," he said.

But commissioners said they would not be burned again as they were last year when they learned the owner of a Hialeah sugar processing company had once pleaded guilty to a federal drug charge.

The county had named a street after the firm.

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