St. Petersburg youth baseball concession stand vandalized

Burg Baseball Inc. vice president Cliff Williams observes the damage inside the stand at the Lakewood Baseball Complex. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
Burg Baseball Inc. vice president Cliff Williams observes the damage inside the stand at the Lakewood Baseball Complex.SCOTT KEELER | Times
Published September 25 2017
Updated September 26 2017

ST. PETERSBURG — The early-morning phone call warned Burg Baseball president Charles Castle to "expect the worst.'' The organization's concession stand had been vandalized.

When Castle arrived, it was as bad as he had expected. The space where the nonprofit organization kept fundraising equipment and donated items for the youth baseball league had been broken into, trashed and burglarized.

"It kind of shakes you up," said Castle, who co-founded the organization that offers financially disadvantaged children a league to play in.

Board members believe the break-in happened some time over the weekend at the stand that the group rents from the city at the Lakewood Baseball Complex, 1201 58th Ave. S. The organization reported about $3,000 in loss, which included food and drinks, league T-shirts and baseball gloves.

St. Petersburg Police spokeswoman Yolanda Fernandez said the investigation into the burglary is ongoing.

Pink tickets that bled into the floor and blue baseball caps were scattered everywhere. Shelves were torn off the wall and black and red markers were used to scribble inappropriate words and drawings across the refrigerator and counters. The place was doused in the Gatorade that the group sold to raise money, Castle said.

Castle, who helped start the group 11 years ago, said neighbors reported seeing a group hanging around the area on Saturday, but it is not clear when it happened.

Despite the loss, Castle said he's not going to let it keep the organization from moving forward with its fall season.

"I won't let this affect my love for the kids as a whole," he said. "We're going to get this cleaned up as quick as we can."

Whoever broke in managed to pry open the concession stand's metal door and the two padlocks, said Cliff Williams, vice president of Burg Baseball. They also managed to get in the crawl space on the roof, tearing the shingles.

At some point, they had also set a baseball cap on fire, but it did not spread.

The organization had just stocked up on supplies for the upcoming fall season, Williams said. Cases of Gatorade, boxes of items they had planned to sell, are now gone.

"They just cleaned the place out," he said.

The most disappointing part, Williams said, was knowing it was likely a group of kids that ransacked items from an organization aimed to serve kids.

"With all that we've worked at over the years, all that we've accomplished, it's disappointing," the St. Petersburg resident said.

It is the second time in five years the organization has had one of their storage places broken into, Williams said.

Williams is hoping that someone in the community spots whoever committed the acts and turns them in. He thinks they may try to sell the gloves and shirts, which could give them away.

"We're resilient," he said. "We're going to keep training these kids as long as we've got a bucket of baseballs."

Contact Melissa Gomez at Follow @melissagomez004.

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