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Two teens arrested for vandalism of Miracle League field

By: Jennie Miller | Southfield Sun | Published September 21, 2011

 Two suspects were arrested last week, suspected of vandalizing the Miracle League of Michigan’s adaptive baseball field for children with special needs in the Southfield Municipal Complex in late May.

Two suspects were arrested last week, suspected of vandalizing the Miracle League of Michigan’s adaptive baseball field for children with special needs in the Southfield Municipal Complex in late May.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

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SOUTHFIELD — Four months after vandals attacked the Miracle League of Michigan’s adapted baseball field for children with special needs, the Southfield Police Department has held two teenagers responsible.

The two 15-year-old boys — one from Southfield and the other from Detroit — were arrested last week after officers investigated two incidents of stolen backpacks from the tennis courts in the Southfield Municipal Complex.

“During the investigation, detectives obtained information that gave them probable cause to believe that the juveniles committed the crimes of malicious destruction of property and two counts of larceny,” said Police Lt. Nick Loussia in a statement.

On May 21, Miracle League officials discovered profanity had been spray-painted on the field, the announcer’s booth, the day care center adjacent to the field, and a shed. The cost of the damage was estimated at $60,000.

The specially designed field — the only of its kind in Michigan — was built in 2004 at the Southfield Municipal Complex to offer children with physical and mental disabilities the chance to play the popular sport.

The damage was inflicted just two weeks prior to the start of the league’s new season.

The league and its supporters were shocked and horrified. While the vandalism did not contain anything derogatory toward the children who play on the field, it did contain profanity, and was quite destructive.

Many problems arose with the league’s efforts to clean up the mess. According to Steve Peck, Miracle League of Michigan president, the field surface is made from $130,000 in synthetic rubber. Solvents were not effective in removing the spray paint. Spray-painting over the field would be unattractive and could create problems underneath the surface following the winter months. Replacing the field is perhaps the only option.

“It’s a difficult situation,” Peck said. “We’re still exploring different options and ways to get this done. We want to bring it back to normalcy.”

The Miracle League saw an outpouring of support from the community following the incident. Some $40,000 has been raised thus far, and the league plans to repair the field in time for the 2012 summer season.

“I think it was the nature of the story that caused the outpouring,” Peck said of why the incident garnered such a strong reaction from the public. “The realization that there’s basically one field for children with any mental or physical disability to play this game. That’s sacred ground, if you will. When people damaged that field, it really touched a nerve with people. How can you kick someone when they’re already down with a disability?”

For now, a giant, custom-made sticker with the Miracle League logo was made by Fathead to cover the vulgar graffiti between first and second base. Vandalism on the buildings was painted over.

When the 2011 season kicked off, the league saw more volunteers than ever before.

“It was our eighth season of play and we served over 400 individuals,” Peck said. “Every single player has to have an able-bodied member of the community to play with them, and for the first time, we had all of our volunteer spots filled. That’s the hardest part for us. But people came out and volunteered, and that was an awesome side effect of this. … As bad as the situation was, it shows you that good, many times, comes from bad, and I liked to see it that way.”

The community not only helped the league, but also detectives within the Police Department, according to Acting Chief Eric Hawkins, in a statement.

“The arrests of these juveniles was the direct result of concerned residents providing valuable information to investigating officers,” he said. “Without this collaboration between Southfield residents and the police department, these juveniles may not have been arrested.”

A petition request has been filed with the Juvenile Division of the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office for each juvenile.

Peck said that he’s happy the suspects have been caught and offers up his own suggestions for punishments for the two teens. He’d like to see them come out to opening day next year and not only apologize, but work one-on-one with some of the disabled children.

“I don’t know what kind of justice the judicial system will serve up to minors, and I don’t know what kind of kids these guys are or how they were raised,” Peck said. “I don’t know if these kids really knew what this field stood for, if they really knew what they were doing and who they were doing it to. By coming out and seeing them and being with them, they can learn a lot about people with disabilities, and about themselves, and about helping others and giving back.”

For more information about the Miracle League, visit www.michigan miracle.org or call (248) 506-4604.

 

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