League dismayed, puzzled over bleachers theft

When Costa Mesa National Little League's vice president started mowing an outfield lawn Wednesday, he didn't notice the aluminum skeleton sitting just outside the right field fence.

A maintenance worker from nearby TeWinkle Middle School had to ask what the league had done with the 12-foot-wide bleachers before Trent Christ realized what was wrong with the picture.

Someone managed to unbolt five rows of aluminum benches, floorboards, backrests, side railings and cross beams and make off with them without anyone noticing.

All that remained of the stand-alone seating were structural beams and one lone backrest bolted to concrete pads in the ground.

"I laughed just out of sheer disbelief," Christ said.

"We're a nonprofit. Who takes bleachers from kids?" his wife, Jennifer, added.

Thursday evening, the league filed a police report, alleging someone stole the metal sometime between the league's Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday afternoon games.

"I'm just shocked and dismayed that somebody would do this to a Little League field," league president Roger Turk said while kids 8 to 10 years old wrapped up an inning on the field behind him.

He estimated the league spent about $4,000 for the seating. It paid for the upgrade out of a $15,000 grant from the youth sports-boosting nonprofit Costa Mesa United.

That price tag didn't include the 12 hours a couple of dozen volunteers spent installing the bleachers before last season.

"All that hard work is gone," he said.

Turk said he can't recall another theft in the six years he's been involved in the Costa Mesa National Little League.

Now parents are trying to come up with ways to protect equipment they thought was safe on the cluster of baseball fields tucked behind TeWinkle and California Elementary School.

Turk is thinking about welding or capping bolts on bleachers because they didn't stop someone from taking pieces of these bleachers over locked fences that surround the facility.

The league plans to post a reward for information leading to an arrest, Turk said. That and fundraising for new bleachers are the next steps.

"We'll replace them," Turk said, "And we'll take extra measures to make sure something like this doesn't happen again."

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