Community rallies around Little League after vandalism incident

Community rallies around Little League after vandalism incident
The Stonebrooke Church ball fields off of Hannalei Drive in Vista, where the Vista National Little League plays. The snack bar at the site was vandalized and burglarized the weekend of July 14-15. Photos by Shana Thompson

It has been nearly three weeks since thieves ransacked the army-green snack bar that has stood for 40 years at the Vista National Little League ball fields off of Hannalei Drive.

And in those three weeks, Little League representatives said, the community support has been overwhelming.

“The support has been incredible,” said Shane Ortega, a parent who serves as the league’s president. “And it’s been from all corners of the community.”

Families and individuals donated money and time to help restore the snack bar and restock the cupboards and refrigerator. The local firefighters association donated money and volunteers to help with the restoration efforts.

vista national little league President Shane Ortega stands inside the snack stand that was burglarized. Thieves stole two cash registers and some food.

Ortega said the support shouldn’t come as a surprise. Vista has long had a love affair with its three Little League baseball organizations — Vista American, Rancho Buena Vista and Vista National.

And the three leagues, while competitors, also rally around one another.

“They all empathize with what is going on,” Ortega said. “Both Little Leagues and families as well as the leagues themselves donated money and snack bar goods to help us get back and making things better. They’ve been through it; Vista American had their snack bar broken into as well.”

As for the community, Ortega said, it seems that even people not formally associated with the league have some tie to it: their kid, or their grandchild or their neighbor’s children play there.

“All of our kids play there, so they see it as a sacred area that should be hands off to that type of stuff,” Ortega said. “It’s probably why people are so upset.”

The incident occurred the weekend of July 14 and July 15, and Little League parents discovered the break-in the following Monday, July 16.

Thieves ripped out the iron bars that protected a rear window of the snack bar and, perhaps in a search for money or food, “trashed the place real good,” Ortega said.

They stole the club’s two cash register and some food, and they also left the refrigerators and freezers open, ruining the food they left behind.

Additionally, the vandals trashed the snack bar, which basically has the same look and feel it had when it was built 40 years ago at the baseball diamonds that sit perched below the Sprinter tracks.

“Anytime you put a lot of time into volunteering and teaching your kids, and something like this happens, you feel very violated by it,” Ortega said.

Cleanup efforts began almost immediately after police concluded their search for fingerprints and on-site investigation — and Little League representatives fielded questions from the host of TV news that descended upon the vandalized snack bar.

By 5:30 p.m. that Monday, volunteers had cleaned the snack bar and put the roll-up doors and security bars back in place.

But the outpouring of support continued, Ortega said. He specifically highlighted the support of the Vista Firefighters Association, which donated money and manpower to the efforts.

Brendan Halle, a fire captain and spokesman for the association, said that it was an easy decision to rally behind the league, which included painting and cleaning the snack bar.

“A lot of us have either played, coached or managed a team, and when we heard the snack bar got vandalized, we wanted to see if we could get a little bit of money together and help them get the field back together,” Halle said.

Ortega said parties still interested in assisting the league with its ongoing efforts can visit the league’s Facebook page or the website, www.vnllbaseball.com

“We’re 90 percent there, and we’re closer to being better than we were before the incident,” Ortega said.

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