Unknown perpetrators stole speakers and vandalized Oak Ridge’s varsity baseball field in the days leading up to July 4.
“This is a kick in the gut to the progress made this past year,” said volunteer baseball parent Liz Davis. “Our coach (Todd Melton) is working with ORHS staff and the Sheriff’s Department, which has started a criminal investigation. It is our intent to prosecute any suspect that is apprehended.”
There were signs something wasn’t right at the end of baseball season in late May, Davis said, and by early June the ORHS maintenance facility manager reported an announcer’s booth and snack bar break-in.
“They stole some candy and hand-painted baseball vases in the announcer’s booths, but we just chalked it up to kid stuff,” said Davis.
Davis said she’s since learned vandals broke into Jeff Mitchell field twice in June. “Obviously kids are out of school with too much time on their hands and parents aren’t paying attention to where they are,” she said.
When Melton went to the field July 3 he saw the announcer’s booth and snack bar were broken into again, but this time the perpetrator(s) used power tools to remove a door that houses expensive equipment, including a PA system.
“We know that they crawled up the backstop because there were footprints,” said Davis. “They cut the wires on the speakers and took two of them.”
The baseball families held their own capital improvement campaign and raised close to $100,000 in the past few years according to Davis. This incident will set them back approximately $10,000.
“We did an amazing job raising money to improve our baseball field beyond anything I’ve ever seen,” she said. “One of the last things we did was install a PA system to announce the kids’ names. H& D Electric graciously donated and installed the system and the speakers had just been installed in March.
“It’s almost like we took that money and burned it,” she continued. “H&D Electric was so generous and then we didn’t even have it for three months. It’s crushing.”
The biggest improvement was a new backstop, which cost $80,000 alone. The funds were also used to build a brand new retaining wall and powder coated fencing.
“It was all completed in the nick of time for the (2014) season to start,” said Davis. Families also donated supplies and countless hours repainting structures and sprucing up the JV and varsity fields.
Davis said it’s too soon to know next steps but said the Sheriff’s Department recommends security cameras/monitors. “First and foremost we need to stop this from happening again, but for sure we need speakers,” said Davis. “Whether we permanently install them again or take them in and out after each game is the question.”
If you have any information contact the Sheriff’s Department or leave a message on the Oak Ridge High School Baseball Club page on Facebook.