Leaders of a youth sports organization in south Pulaski County are asking for help after the ballpark they manage was robbed.
Thieves broke into a storage building in the Arch Street Youth Association’s ballpark in Landmark and caused thousands of dollars in damage.
They stole tools to maintain the fields, such as a weed eater and a line marker, cut the battery and wiring out of the park’s commercial lawnmower, and stole the air conditioning unit that cools the concession stand.
“They needed a quick buck,” said Joe O’Bryan, President of the Arch Street Youth Association. “They did a couple thousand dollars’ worth of damage and they’re gonna get $40 or $50 for scrap for an air conditioner unit.”
O’Bryan said he does not know when the crime happened, but it was discovered on October 23. The organization is in its off-season, so board members do not visit the field more than once a week.
“It really hurts,” O’Bryan explained, “because we don’t have a lot of money to begin with. We’re self-funded. All the money we make comes from concession, or registration and gate. Nine times out of 10, all the money we get from gate and concession goes out the same night, to pay umpires, or do upkeep and stuff like that.”
O’Bryan said he joined the ASYA to play basketball when he was eight years old, and first played baseball with the group at age 12. For the last several years he has run its programs and coached many of its teams. He and the others who run the non-profit organization volunteer their time.
“They’re not stealing from any adults over here,” he said. “They’re stealing from the kids.”
O’Bryan said security at the ballpark will increase in response to the break-in and theft. A side gate that was permanently left open will now be closed, cutting off access to families who wanted to play catch or use the park’s playground equipment. The group will also put a gate at the driveway to keep people out.
“We do have cameras,” he mentioned, “but they can’t see everything, and they’re not human. They can’t say, ‘hey, you, get out of here.’ And so, we’re gonna have to fortify the place; put a gate up, put cables up, keep people from driving in.”
The stolen air conditioning unit is the biggest expense for the organization. While it is worth little as scrap, O’Bryan claimed it would cost a couple thousand dollars to replace the system.
He plans to bring in box fans to cool the concession stand this spring, because the league probably will not be able to afford a new A/C for a couple years. It is not a wealthy league, and Landmark is not a wealthy community. But it has lots of families who treasure the ballpark. That is why O’Bryan does not know who would have stolen from it.
“I think it’s somebody new,” he guessed, “that is not familiar with this place, because I think, even the worst person knows what’s going on up here. We’re putting baseball on for kids, baseball and softball on for kids.”
Registration is underway for the spring season, and O’Bryan said he and the group’s other board members will do whatever it takes to get the fields ready for when practices begin in January.
“This is the heart of this community,” he stated, “and I’m gonna keep it going as long as I can.”
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