LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - People around central Arkansas were saddened by a break-in at Lamar Porter Field last week, in which thieves stole thousands of dollars of equipment from Little Rock RBI Baseball.
But from that theft came another reminder that Arkansans are willing to help those who do good things for their neighbors.
Donations have replaced nearly everything that was stolen from the league and more have been promised.
“People found out what happened to us, and they care,” explained Dillon Hupp, the league’s commissioner. “That’s the thing that I want people to take away from it, is that people care, this community cares, this community isn’t going to roll over in the face of negativity.”
Negativity was hard to ignore after the break-in, which occurred overnight between June 15-16. Thieves cut open multiple fences around the stadium, disabled the electricity, stole an ATV and baseball equipment, and trashed the concession stand.
But a new week brought a new sense of optimism amid generosity.
Tuesday afternoon, former Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Ron Sheffield handed over the keys to a replacement ATV Tuesday afternoon. He said he used to use it for hunting, but surgeries in the past few years have forced him to stop, so it sat idle in his garage. As a former college baseball player, he knew how much it would mean to the league to be able to use it to rake the infield.
“He’s just a citizen,” Hupp mentioned. “You know, he’s just a member of this community who cares about baseball and who cares about these kids. And he saw what had happened to us and he called me out of the blue.”
Sheffield said he did not want any publicity for his gift, and that he simply thought it was the right thing to do.
Someone from Bryant had the same idea. Monday, they anonymously left a pile of gear by the front gate of the stadium, including bats, balls, helmets, gloves, and catcher’s equipment.
RBI is a national program that is designed to encourage kids from low-income families to play baseball. Little Rock RBI runs on a yearly budget of just $30,000, so Hupp said last weekend that it would take a long time to find enough money to replace all that was stolen. Some people have donated cash, which covered the cost of repairs to the fences that were cut open by the thieves.
“The donations help us to continue to repair damage,” Hupp mentioned. “The monetary donations, of course. The donations of equipment help us to make sure that the kids continue to have what they need to play the games.”
The kids continued to play after the break-in, with games taking place less than 24 hours after the damage was discovered, and there were more games at the field Tuesday. Just as in life, you may strike out, but there is always another chance to hit a home run.
“This community is so supportive of RBI Baseball, especially in the face of adversity,” Hupp said, “and we are beyond thrilled with the outpouring of support that we’ve received.”
Hupp and the other league administrators have not decided how they will enhance the stadium’s security to protect the new equipment. Tony Dunnick, another of the league’s organizers, said security cameras located next door to the stadium at Woodruff Early Childhood Learning Center likely filmed the thieves. He added that the Little Rock Police Department is reviewing the footage to see if it can help detectives develop suspects.
For information about donating to Little Rock RBI Baseball, click here.