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Frank Gray

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Little League hurting after tractor thefts

If you make it into the major leagues in baseball, where the minimum salary is $480,000 and the average player makes something more than $3 million a year, you’re doing OK for yourself.

But nobody ever got rich playing Little League. It’s a non-profit operation, so if there is much money lying around, people will begin to ask why, says Ryan Keirns, who helps run the Foster Park Little League.

That’s why a couple of instances of thefts from the league at Foster Park has dealt a crippling blow to the operation.

In early August, someone broke into the league’s storage shed and stole a John Deere tractor that the league used to haul equipment and drag the diamond. Then about two weeks after that someone broke into the building again and stole a riding mower the league used on its baseball fields.

There was some other equipment in the building, some baseball stuff and some hand tools. The thieves didn’t pay any attention to that. Whoever robbed the league was looking for big-ticket items.

Those pieces of equipment weren’t the only losses.

“The door was beat to heck,” and it will cost about $2,000 just to replace the door. That will pay for a lot of Little Leaguers to play ball.

Exactly when the thefts occurred isn’t clear. Had the thefts taken place earlier in the season, when there’s a lot of activity at the ball diamonds, it would have been possible to narrow down the time of the thefts to within three or four hours. But the break-ins came at the end of the season when there was less activity at the park.

One wonders how someone managed to get in, take the gear and get out – twice. When you’re beating a garage door to pieces, it makes noise. Someone certainly must have heard something, but it’s too late to worry about it now.

One also wonders whether anyone would notice someone taking off with a tractor or riding mower, but then again, would you really consider it unusual?

The thefts are the first time Keirns says he recalls anything being stolen from the league. Oh, little things would come up missing now and then, but that was more a case of keeping track of inventory and things such as batting helmets. As far as major thefts, this was a first.

For now, the Little League is going to have to find a way to come up with possibly a few thousand dollars to replace the loss and fix the damage. That’s a lot of money, especially for a league that has tried to keep fees low and that hasn’t increased fees in five or six years, Keirns says.

Perhaps they’ll have to resort to some type of fundraiser, Keirns says, or perhaps league officials will try to use their connections to get some used equipment donated to the league. The league does have the entire fall, winter and spring to look for solutions.

One still wonders, though, what kind of guy goes around stealing from Little Leaguers?

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.