PALMDALE – With money already tight for the non-profit league, a recent spate of break-ins and acts of vandalism are causing additional hardship for Palmdale Pony Youth Baseball.
According to Pony Youth Baseball President Russ Monette, the league’s four-field ballpark has experienced a surge of vandalism and theft in the last month and a half, taking its greatest loss with the theft of a riding mower, valued between $1,500 and $2,000.
The recently repaired mower was used to mow the outfield and drag the infield between games, Monette said. It was stolen from the ballpark Friday night or Saturday morning, Aug. 8-9.
“The thing is, this is for the kids. I’m at a loss for words,” Monette said. “I don’t know if they don’t realize it or if they just don’t care.”
Besides the security shed that stored the mower, other criminal incidents include break-ins at two of the field’s score boxes, the destruction of the ballpark’s entrance gate, and the graffiti and defacing of other facilities.
“It’s really discouraging,” said Marvin Soberanis, who is vice president of the Pony Youth Baseball league. “It’s not only us seeing this, but we have other parents coming here trying to sign up, and they see this. And we’re scared that they may not want to come back here – because of all that’s going on.”
One of the more alarming incidents by the vandals included breaking into the second-story score box in the Pony Tower. Monette said the perpetrators also attempted, but failed, to start a fire in the space, which sits atop the bottom-floor electrical room for the field.
The door to the Pony Tower’s second-floor score box has been broken into at least three separate times in the last month and a half. “I finally just gave up and boarded it,” Monette said, noting he will simply need to keep it closed until they can raise more money to acquire a metal security door. “This vandalism has been happening not just during the weekends, but during the week, too. And obviously we’re going to have to buy cameras now.”
Monette has reported the incidents to the Palmdale Sheriff’s Department, but so far he has not heard about any leads. He said they don’t know if it’s local high school kids with time on their hands or thieves who may be trolling the area looking for crimes of opportunity.
“It’s all happened between seasons. Nothing has really happened during the season,” he said. “Once ‘All Stars’ stopped, practically all the mischief here started.”
Monette said the national Pony organization will help the league out with a $500 check for the expenses suffered from the recent incidents. Though this will help, the organization is still faced with finding and installing cameras and motion sensors to deter further acts of crime, which may cost the league about $800-$900, he said.
Palmdale Pony Youth Baseball is a non-profit sports organization that serves children ages 3 to 14. Although the league had more than 150 local kids participating in baseball and softball games last year, those registration fees collected go toward uniforms, bills and expenses.
“Our biggest expense is running the lights,” Monette said, noting that the league, which consists completely of volunteers, leases the ballpark from the Antelope Valley High School District for a dollar a year, and the city of Palmdale pays for the organization’s water.
Monette said the league is currently hosting Fall Ball sign-ups, while also planning its Palmdale Pony Labor Day Weekend Tournament Aug. 30-Sept. 1; however, they will not be using the Pony Tower’s score box until they can repair the damage left by vandals.
Because the league has no money to replace the mower and limited funds to purchase and install a security system, Monette has set up a GoFundMe.com account, where the league has raised $1,520 so far to help repair the facilities, replace equipment, and provide greater security and surveillance for the ballpark.
Monette told the Antelope Valley Times that his goal is to reach $15,000. It “may be a lofty goal,” he admits, “but you have to aim high.” He said the league must continue to address other ongoing expenses, such as fixing the fencing and repairing the field lights on the Bronco field.
The league’s funding page is at http://www.gofundme.com/cxdnsc.
But no matter how much money Monette is able to raise for the league, he said the league will always have a single purpose in mind for local youth. “I’m trying to help make this place grow with the community – draw some of those kids in here and keep them out of trouble,” he said. “That’s always been my thought process: keep kids involved in local sports and activities.”
The Palmdale Pony Youth Baseball park is located at 38302 20th Street East in Palmdale. For more information, call 661-947-7676 or visit http://www.leaguelineup.com/palmdalepony.
For more information on the league’s Labor Day Weekend Tournament Aug. 30-Sept. 1, contact Monette by calling 661-305-2266 or visit the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/PPYB1968. The deadline to enter is Sunday, Aug. 24. Ball games are on Sunday afternoons beginning Sept. 14.
About the authorJim E. Winburn is freelance reporter covering news of public interest.