SOUTH HAVEN | Any plans to construct new pavilions and possibly lights at the South Haven Little League fields are being put on hold after the theft of a tractor and a mower.
South Haven Little League president Phillip Saylor said the theft of equipment and the damage to the league's facilities will cost the small nonprofit organization, even though the equipment was insured.
Police were called Jan. 11 to the fields at 747 N. County Road 450 West, where volunteers discovered a zero-turn lawn mower and Kubota tractor, together valued at about $20,000 missing from a garage.
Police found a plastic wrapper for bolt cutters near the garage.
Saylor believes the thieves used the bolt cutters to get through a fence. Entry to the garage was gained by forcing the overhead garage door off its tracks, according to police.
Saylor said other items of value were not taken from the garage.
While the league should receive some money from its insurance carrier, those payments are not likely to cover all of the league's cost to replace the equipment.
"Now we have to fund-raise again to replace what’s not covered in insurance," he said.
And, he said, the recent thefts and problems over the last few months with people dumping at the site likely will force the league to invest in a security system.
"It’s not like it’s my own personal stuff," he said. “We take time out of our lives to raise money and buy things wisely.”
But the problems go beyond money.
“You’re not taking it from me, you’re taking it from the kids.”
Saylor said there had been plans to construct new pavilions at each of the three fields. He and other volunteers had hoped to start raising money for lights.
But all that is on hold until they can get the equipment they need to mow the fields and do other maintenance work.
Saylor said the league is offering a $250 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those involved in the break-in.
Mostly, he wants the community to understand the league's plight.
"We have about 250 kids," he said. "We're a small league with about eight adults who do most of the work. We spend our time (volunteering) because we love baseball and we love the kids. To have someone come in a deface it is angering — and disheartening.
"It's easy for people to get disheartened," he said. "It's all volunteers. No one gets paid."
Saylor said anyone who would like to make a donation can send a check to South Haven Little League, P.O. Box 1163, Portage, IN 46368. The league, which Saylor said is a 501(c)3 organization, will send a receipt to the donor.