Krause: Vandalism of Little League field is infuriating

On the front page of today’s paper, there’s a story that tries to explain why playgrounds, once oases of activity for children, have become virtually vacant to anything besides organized activity.

Some people think it’s the proliferation of electronic gizmos that keep kids occupied to the alarming exclusion of social interaction and normal, healthy human relations.

Well, maybe that’s a good thing. Because apparently if kids ever decide to go down to one of our city’s parks, on their own, unsupervised, all you-know-what breaks loose.

Two weeks ago, Pine Hill Little League president Jill Avery discovered that some group of jerks — several of which are graduates of the program — vandalized Spagnoli Field.

Not that any of these idiots would probably care, but when someone sent her the text showing the extent of the vandalism, Avery was in Boston, at Beth Israel Hospital, with her father, who is experiencing some significant health problems. She needed the extra burden of this like she needed bricks thrown on top of her.

“I couldn’t deal with it right away,” she said. “I had too much else going on.”

The thing that astounded Avery the most was that two picnic tables that were chained together were somehow dragged by two of the vandals into center field.

“All I can say,” Avery said, “is that those kids must have really wanted those tables out there.”

In the interest of full disclosure, I was once an officer of Pine Hill Little League. The field is named for Chris Spagnoli, one of the nicest and bravest kids I’ve ever met. Chris died when he was 16 due to complications that began when he had to have a blood transfusion. His story is, at once, both incredibly sad and incredibly inspiring because of how he chose to deal with what happened to him.

Not that any of these morons would understand or appreciate this, even though some of them stood on that very infield on opening day and listened to people like his late mother, Maureen, talk about her son.

Because of the situation involving her father, Avery has had to fit doing some amateur sleuthing around tending to his needs. But anyone who knows her will tell you that she is one dogged individual. She has ferreted out the identities of most of the kids responsible, and she’s in the process of calling their parents in hopes that they help rectify the situation.

It’s not so much the damage, she says, though it’s considerable.

“It’s the lack of respect,” she said. “What is it? Do they think they’re invincible? I don’t understand it.”

She will not divulge the names of the kids responsible because they are all minors — a courtesy that is much more than any of them deserve. Count me in as one who believes that kids who commit these types of crimes should be formally arrested, charged, and identified the same as any other criminal. Why not?

Speaking from the perspective of one who spent an awful lot of time at that Little League field, and at meeting after meeting, for six years, that you leave a piece of yourself there when you finally walk away. I know that in the end, we’re all caretakers and stewards, and that none of this belongs to any of us.

But when you spend as much time administering to children the way Avery and others have, it’s difficult not to get a little bit proprietary about it.

And I fully understand Avery’s anger. Pine Hill is one of the two smallest leagues in Lynn (Lynn Shore is the other), yet Avery and her crew do their utmost to make the league, and its facility, a jewel.

Two months ago, the District 16 tournament went the distance, with Peabody and Peabody West needing two games to settle it.

With all the fields in the district, including such well-kept facilities as Wyoma’s Reinfuss Field, Swampscott, and East Lynn’s Volunteer Field, those final games were played at Spagnoli Field. There’s a reason for that.

And if this isn’t piling on enough, because Avery was so wrapped up in her father’s illness two weeks ago, it fell upon her husband, Rich, to clean the place up. Rich Avery, for those who don’t know, is the site manager at Manning and Fraser fields. With the school sports year starting, he doesn’t need the extra-added stress of vandalism at the Little League field any more than his wife does.

I don’t suppose you can expect teenagers — some of whom might have swallowed a little liquid courage before embarking on this vandalism journey — to think about the ramifications of what they do when they go on these rampages. But if that’s where the bar is today, it’s a pretty sorry world. We seriously need to raise it.

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