Thieves target netting between fields at Longview ballpark

LONGVIEW, WA (KPTV) – It’s a gaping hole in the budget for the Longview Girls Softball Association: Someone cut out a large chunk of netting between two fields.

“Replacing this net is going to be at least $1,000,” said association board member Phil Ranta, pointing out the damage Monday evening. “I don’t know what they would do with a net.”

And the thieves went to work cutting it down, despite several large signs warning of video surveillance.

Ranta went straight to the tapes after the frustrating discovery Friday morning.

On the grainy surveillance video, two people are seen pulling up on bikes near one of the softball fields. A couple of minutes later, one of them climbs onto nearby bleachers.

“It looks like he had some kind of knife, or whatever, and he just starts cutting up the net, rolls it up and put’s in that girl’s backpack and they go drive off,” Ranta said.

It’s far from the only blow to the association this year.

“We had our four-wheeler stolen at the beginning of softball season,” Ranta said. “That was another $5,500.”

Fortunately, insurance covered that loss, but there’s more. Someone stole a flag and cable off a pole, and the league is constantly finding human waste and needles around the dugouts and concession stand.

Last year, nets were also cut down.

“What it’s doing is it’s just nickeling and diming us,” Ranta said. “We’re a sports league — it’s a youth league — we don’t make any money, so basically every year we’re just trying to break even.”

The softball season is now over, but Ranta said Special Olympics teams will soon use the fields for practice.

The association doesn’t have the money to replace the net.

“We are literally one vandalism spree from having to close the doors,” Ranta said.

With no gates surrounding the complex, it’s frustrating for league members who feel helpless. The cameras and occasional police patrols are the only crime deterrent.

Longview Police told FOX 12 they try to send officers to check on the ballpark between patrol calls.

Ranta said he’d like to see the city eventually invest in a new complex with better security. So far, it’s promising – earlier this spring councilors voted to explore the idea and directed Parks and Recreation to solicit bids.

Longview police are investigating both theft cases. Anyone with information should give them a call.