Some baseball players in Saint John are starting a new season with one strike already against them.
Port City Minor Baseball Association is cleaning up damage to its batting cages at Memorial Field.
President Mike Brooks said the association had just reinstalled the cages for the upcoming baseball season. They are used for practicing hitting and pitching while offering protection to the players using them and allowing other activities to take place on the baseball field itself.
Within days, much of the netting covering the tops of the cages was now hanging off their perimeter fencing and resting on the ground. Some of the framing had also been separated from supporting fence posts.
Brook said when he arrived at the field on Friday, he recognized quickly that the damage was not accidental.
A smiley face had been carved into the surface of a trampoline in one the cages.
“It was that proof,” he began. “And it was kind of, ‘Why?’ It took any possibility of it not being vandals away and kind of brought home that this is definitely somebody or some group’s doing.”
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The cages were unusable for PCMBA tryouts held on the weekend.
Brooks said about 350 players from his association alone would use the cages each year, and other teams and organizations use them as well.
He believes the damage occurred May 11 or 12, but he said he’s not sure how.
While the cages are managed by the association, Memorial Field is owned and managed by the city. Brooks said the facility was closed and locked during that time.
“This is a fenced-in area. It’s hard to get to. It’s not something that people going by would necessarily know was there. You can only see, maybe, the top foot of it from the road.”
Brooks said it took eight volunteers up to four hours each to complete the original work. He said he’s hoping to have repairs done in time for practices this weekend.
“We offer our disappointment with any damage that was done to the facilities,” Lisa Caissie, the manager of corporate communications for the City of Saint John.
“And we continue to offer our support to the stakeholders involved in any way we can, including participating in any investigation initiated by a Police report from the facility managers.”
Brooks said police have not been contacted.
He said the biggest hurdle now is making the cages usable again.
“A couple hundred dollars and a whole lot of free volunteer hours and we’ll be back up,” Brooks said.