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Little League hit by equipment thieves

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

The cry of “play ball!” is less enthusiastic this year at the Alameda Little League Park – but not because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Practice was to begin on April 5, but the park’s field house and two storage sheds were recently broken into, and $20,000 worth of equipment was stolen or vandalized, according to Little League District 8 president Neal Santa Cruz.

“I discovered it last Friday afternoon and believe it had just happened because I drove by earlier that morning and everything looked normal,” he said.

The field house as constructed has a gap between the top of the wall and the roof, and Santa Cruz believes that’s where the thief or thieves made their entry and then simply unlocked the door from the inside.

The two sheds, he said, “looked like the locks had been torched off of the doors.”

Among the equipment stolen were baseball bats, 20 boxes of baseballs, three pitching machines, four chalking machines, bags of lining chalk, bases with stems and sets of catcher’s and umpire’s gear.

The loss is particularly hurtful, Santa Cruz said, coming after a full year in which practices and games were canceled because of the pandemic.

The Albuquerque Little League Park is located on Alameda near Second, west and south of Balloon Fiesta Park. It is owned by the city of Albuquerque but the league is responsible for maintaining it.

The park has six baseball diamonds and the league normally runs eight to 10 teams, with T-ball for kids ages 5 to 7, and Little League baseball for older kids.

Meanwhile, the New Mexico Chamber of Commerce, after learning about the stolen equipment, has reached out to its members in an attempt to raise money and try to save the league’s season.

Janae Amparan, the chamber’s director of operations and business development, said thus far the organization has raised about $1,000.

In addition, the One Albuquerque Fund has agreed to match equipment donations up to $10,000, said Albuquerque Parks and Recreation Department spokeswoman Jessica Campbell.

The One Albuquerque Fund is a donation-based fund that was created to support city initiatives, Campbell said.

Santa Cruz is determined to make sure his teams get to play baseball this year, despite the setback of the equipment.

“We still intend to play ball, regardless,” he said emphatically. “We’re going to find a way to get our kids out there one way or another.”

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