Vandalism of sports venues tend to rouse the ire of their home communities. But when that venue is in a Hall of Fame complex, AND on a facility dedicated to youth play, the anger quotient goes up and over the high side.
Residents of St. Marys, Ontario were enraged to find someone had broken into their beloved Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame during a snowstorm and ruined a flagship youth field by driving across it repeatedly, chewing up the grass and causing deep ruts.
In an interview with CTV News London, Scott Crawford, CBHOF director of operations said the damage was done on King Field, one of four premier diamonds at the attraction, which includes an onsite museum to Canada’s baseball greats. The field, made of natural grass, was originally installed in 2014 and had been painstakingly maintained to keep it in pristine condition.
Until, that is, someone broke into King Field by driving down an adjacent field, coming in through a gate and spinning circles repeatedly.
“They just didn’t do one donut, they did 10, 20, 25 donuts, late Friday night or early Saturday morning,” Crawford said. "Dummies...they're doing donuts."
Police believe the culprit vehicle was a larger pickup truck with heavy tread on the tires.
There were no monitoring devices on the field, and no neighbors reported hearing or seeing anything untoward. Because the damage happened over a Friday night, and was not discovered until later on Saturday, any tire racks leading away from the field had long since vanished.
The damage was extensive, destroying more than half of the outfield and its irrigation system. And fixing it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Because the problems with the field can’t even begin to be addressed until a permanent spring thaw, Crawford expects the whole field to be out of commission for an extended period. CTV News London noted that even with repairs, Crawford said the field will not be the same for at least a season or two.
It will also cost several thousand dollars to repair – something the museum can ill afford. Like many tourist attractions, it has taken a hit since 2020, with travel and gathering restrictions, according to Mayor Al Strathdee.
“They’ve been trying to upkeep them to be the premier diamonds in Canada. This diamond, in particular, is used for youth and the money’s got to come from somewhere. And they’re struggling for attendance already given the pandemic.”
The worst part, Crawford added, was that King Field is host to more than 10,000 players annually as part of St. Marys Minor Ball, St. Marys Slo-Pitch and many out-of-town teams who come to enjoy a unique experience by playing on one of the nicest fields in Ontario while visiting the Hall of Fame in St. Marys. Having the field out of service will cause problems.
The CBHOF sits on more than 30 acres and includes a total of four fields, including King. It hosts more than 950 events each year, including games for the Ontario Nationals, the PBLO, CPBL, London Men’s League, Great Lake Canadians, London Badgers, teams from Quebec and many others.
“The vandalism is senseless and heartbreaking,” Strathdee told another newspaper. “Many, many volunteers have helped maintain our fields and museum. The King Diamond is primarily used for youth baseball. These past two years have been tough for the hall of fame. To experience this senseless damage is heartbreaking.”
At last check, no suspects had been named in the incident and the CBHOF had begun the work of trying to collect donations to pay for repairs to the field. (A link to donate can be found here).
The organization is also reaching out to local community groups to find out if anyone has expertise in field design, repair or construction, and who might be interested in helping the CBHOF rebuild King Field.