MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - It's been nearly a week since the Southern League Dixie Youth Baseball fields behind Seth Johnson Elementary were vandalized, and the league's leaders are still wanting answers.
Stanley Thomas, who serves on the board of directors, is responsible for purchasing all of the equipment for the league. This includes players' equipment, items for the concession stand, trophies and uniforms. He said he believes whoever stole the items got away with more than $40,000 worth of equipment.
"We just purchased new bats," said Thomas. "We had to buy 35 USA-certified bats, and they are very expensive. They can be 200, 300 [dollars]…all the way up. We also had to get T-ball bats and all of girls softball. We also lost catching equipment, our grill top in the concession stand, two microwaves, two popcorn machines and our pizza machines."
Thomas said the league's trophies were stolen as well and that the inside of the concession stand and announcer booth were left with broken items, toppled over chairs and the remaining equipment scattered around.
He said this is not the first time the league has had to deal with having property stolen and other issues in the area.
"We got broken into the year before last," Thomas said. "Something's just constantly happening. Somewhere around July, we were out here practicing and we heard gunshots."
However, he and other board members, like League Secretary Barbara Smith, said the damage done goes deeper than material items.
Smith and a member of the board of directors said the league offers an extracurricular activity, character development and team building to hundreds of children whose families may not have been able to afford it in a different league.
"We don't charge very much for registration," said Smith. "In the last few years, we've had all of the equipment and uniforms for the children. It's reasonable for the parents, because we do have a lot of parents who are not able to pay a lot of the high prices at some of the other leagues."
The Seth Johnson field is where the 12 and under baseball teams play. Smith and Thomas said they are hoping to get permission from the city of Montgomery to put all of their games at the Peter Crump facility to help eliminate some of the issues they experience in that neighborhood.
Both of the Southern League fields, Peter Crump and Seth Johnson, sit in Montgomery County Commission Chairman Elton Dean's district.
In a statement, Dean said, "There is no price for the amount of time, blood, sweat and tears the board and league have poured into this facility. It hurts someone would take away from the children. We will do what it takes to continue to provide for these young athletes."
Smith said the league has received support, including financial support, from Commissioner Dean as well as City Councilman Fred Bell.
The league has set up a GoFundMe page to collect money to merge playing fields.
You can also send monetary and equipment donations to the league at:
Montgomery Southern League Dixie Youth Baseball/Softball, Inc.
P.O. Box 20272
Montgomery, AL 36120.
Cpl. David Hicks with the Montgomery Police Department confirmed MPD responded to the area on Aug. 18. He stated a report was taken for burglary and first-degree theft of property, and the situation is currently under investigation.