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Thursday, Apr 24, 2014

Hill: Vandalized Little League seeks help

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There is nothing easy about being a volunteer official at a youth sports league like Little League.

You schlep kids around from practice to games to practice to tourneys. You mow the lawn, line the field, rake the clay, hire the umpires, buy the equipment, raise the money.

You go to board meetings, do your stint at the concession stand and fill in when another parent doesn’t or can’t show up. You worry about having enough money in the kitty to buy the shirts and the caps for 200 kids.

You deal with adorable 4-year-olds and obnoxious teens. You referee fights between fans in the stands and counsel some to watch their mouths when they yell at the umpire — or the kids.

There is no financial reward. In fact, it costs you money. But you do it anyway, for the love of the game and the love of the kids.

I know whereof I speak, having done it myself a few decades ago.

That’s why the story I saw the other night by Andre Senior on WTSP-TV Channel 10 struck a nerve.

Vandals ripped through the clubhouse at Cross Bayou Little League in Seminole on Jan. 13, smashing the cash register on the floor; shattering the glass in the trophy case with a cement block; throwing trophies, old photos and newspaper clippings around like trash; ripping metal locker doors off their hinges; breaking wood doors in half and setting off two of the four fire extinguishers to make an even bigger mess.

They also left an evil message on the league computer: “I am gonna blow this school up!”

Damage may exceed $3,000, money the league doesn’t have and its insurance won’t cover.

My first reaction was anger. I’m still angry at the brainless twits who had no regard for anyone but themselves and broke not only glass and trophies, but hearts.

I hope they’re caught and made to pay for the damages — and clean up the mess.

But anger doesn’t help the league.

Perhaps you can.

The league, which has subsisted on fundraisers, donations, concession stand revenue, nominal registration fees and volunteers since the early 1960s, is reaching out to the community for assistance.

Jennifer Ward, the league’s treasurer, said this was the second incursion into the building in a week’s time.

On Jan. 8, someone broke in and took candy.

“Monday night was more malicious,” says Ward, who played in the league when she was a child and whose daughter Mikayla, 5, plays T-ball.

Ward said sheriff’s deputies and the forensic team that investigated the most recent crime said the vandals were likely teens. They did get fingerprints.

Ward is convinced it isn’t any of the kids who have played in the league.

“No way,” she says. “It wouldn’t be any of them.”

League President Stacy Meyer, whose late son, Richard, played at Cross Bayou for seven years and whose daughter, Heather, also played, agrees with Ward regarding the character of the Cross Bayou players.

There is a lot of supervision and a lot of parental involvement, Meyer says.

Even grandparents are involved.

Meyer’s father, Dennis Ramsay, known to the kids as “G-Pa,” is at the field every day. Among many tasks, the retiree mows the grass.

“We come from all walks of life, and we’re all there for the same reason: for the kids,” Meyer says.

Anyone can play, no matter their ability to pay. The league includes several divisions for boys and girls from 4 to 16. There’s also a Big League program for teenagers from 14 to 18.

“We don’t turn anyone away,” says Meyer, who is in her second two-year term as president.

The league offers scholarships for registration fees and buys bats, gloves and other equipment for kids whose parents can’t afford the expenditures.

The league is currently holding registration for the 2014 season, which begins in March.

So there’s a lot to do to get things back to normal and not much time to do it.

Anything would be welcome. Money, donations of supplies, labor.

Sad to say, video surveillance equipment would also be welcome.

If you can help in any way, email Meyer at crossbayoull@gmail.com or me at judyhillstpete@hotmail.com.

Thanks for anything you can do.

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