JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A local youth athletic complex no longer can host any more games because someone stole a vital piece of field equipment.
Coaches at the Normandy Athletic Association say someone broke in and stole their John Deere field drag. The tractor is what makes it possible to play smooth and safe games on the field.
It looks kind of like an oversized lawnmower or mini tractor but it has a rake attached that smooths over the clay and any holes that could make playing for the kids dangerous.
The coaches think the thief must have known what they were doing because not everyone would know how to operate this machine.
Victor Simon, a coach at Normandy, said someone broke in and stole the John Deere field drag.
"When it's not even like that, baseballs will just jump. They'll hit a kid in the face, they'll hit just hit a kid in general," said Simon.
It's a risk the coaches aren't willing to take. The complex has stopped hosting games, which is a loss that goes further than the cost of the tractor.
"They took from the kids. They're taking away from the kids' ability to come out here and enjoy themselves. They're taking away from our association where raising money, any money we raise out here, whether it's concessions, goes to the park," said Simon.
Manny Cuevas, another coach, doesn't understand why someone would want a field drag in the first place.
"It's not a piece of equipment you can just joyride on. I mean, it's specifically made for these fields, so I'm not too sure what they're gonna be able to do with it," said Cuevas.
The two coaches say the tractor means nothing to whoever stole it but everything to these kids.
"Really, we just want it, the equipment, back, if they're able to do so," said Cuevas.
The athletic association says they can still hold practices but they can't host any more rival games until they find a way to plow the field again.
Right now, the staff is in the process of combing through online shopping pages to see if someone has listed it.
Right now, they cannot afford to replace the tractor.