Arlington Little League halts games after thieves ravage ballpark

Thieves snatch copper wiring, equipment, cleats in heist

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A neighborhood crime alert has many people asking: “Who would steal from children?”

Volunteers for the nonprofit Arlington Little League told News4Jax that thieves took tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment and gutted the electrical system at their sports complex, shutting down fall baseball for hundreds of children.

The park, which is located on Fort Caroline Road, has been part of the community since 1963.

Besides being a haven for up-and-coming baseball players, the Arlington Little League hosts “Challengers” games, where players invite children with special needs to play baseball.

“It’s more than just baseball, it’s raising these kids,” said league vice president and coach Jason Rolston.

But, lately, there’s been no fun here. No cheers. No smiles. Baseball has been canceled.

Rolston said thieves tore apart the park Halloween weekend, stripping the electricity, bashing in doors, and snatching expensive copper wire, lawn equipment, baseball supplies and cleats. Copper wire is expensive and can be traded in for cash.

According to the Arlington Little League vice president, copper wire, lawn equipment, baseball supplies and cleats were stolen. (WJXT)

“They stole from the community,” Rolston said. “We’re like one of the only privately-owned baseball parks left in Jacksonville.”

There’s no surveillance because someone, possibly the crooks, knocked power out weeks earlier. That caused safety concerns, forcing JEA to shut down the power breakers.

Now, the cost to repair and replace is in the ballpark of $60,000 to $70,000.

Volunteers for Arlington Little League said thieves stole tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment and gutted the electrical system at their sports complex. (WJXT)

The metal and equipment the thieves stole are heavy. Rolston said they likely used a truck or an SUV. Rolston explained how he can see where they came in: They busted through the lock on that back gate; drove across the baseball diamond; got up to the main part of the property, where they cut the fence, about 7 feet high and 10 feet wide; and then drove in so they could load up their vehicle with everything that they were going to steal, tossing the garbage aside and using trash cans to take everything they wanted.

“We will do our best to take care of it,” said Arlington Lions Club treasurer Jack Carr. “We will take care of it, I promise you that. But it’s going to take some time and effort.”

The Arlington Little League vice president said the thieves cut the fence, about 7 feet high and 10 feet wide. (WJXT)

The Arlington Lions Club, which owns the complex and leases it to the little league for $1, will have to pay for the repairs.

“It’s disgusting,” Carr said. “It’s a shame to have this happen in a community of people (who) need this type of facility for their own families. And for them to go and hurt their own children, I can’t understand it.”

It’s all for the children: giving them something positive to do. Despite the incident, those who make it happen are determined to bring back this field of dreams. The goal is to have the park running again well before spring season, which is set for March.

The nonprofit Lions Club and Little League are asking for donations. They could use help with everything from cleats to baseballs to lawn equipment. They’ve also set up a GoFundMe account that can be found here.

A neighborhood crime alert has many people asking, "who would steal from children?"

About the Author:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.