Police have identified the driver they think used a truck to tear up the Austin-East Magnet High School baseball field by speeding in circles through the outfield turf.
Knoxville Police Department spokesperson Scott Erland told Knox News the department has “located the suspect vehicle and our investigation into the vandalism is still ongoing.”
Kaylin Chesney, Austin-East’s new head baseball coach, estimated it will cost between $6,000 to $10,000 to repair the field.
“Baseball might not be the most popular sport, but there are some kids that really enjoy it, including me. We got our program back and I have been blessed with the opportunity to coach this team,” Chesney told Knox News.
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“It’s so unfortunate. But we will make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
Help for the baseball program is on the way. One Knoxville SC, the city’s new soccer team, raised more than $10,000 by late Friday afternoon to make the repairs through a GoFundMe page the club sponsored.
The vandalism occurred about 11:10 am Monday, according to a review of surveillance video, Erland said. The vehicle appears to be a full-size silver Chevy pickup truck with an extended cab and specialty license plate with white and pink coloring.
The field, recently refurbished, is scarred with deep tire tracks that churned up mud and left grooves across the playing surface.
Chesney told Knox News the damage was discovered Thursday by a trainer, and school administrators will review video from security cameras Friday.
“This was so sickening for me to see and frustrating because we really put a lot of time into getting the field to the point it was at,” Chesney told Knox News. “The field hadn’t been touched in years and the time we have spent working on it only to see someone do this is just terrible.”
He said work began in October to prepare the field for games scheduled for March, and more than $1,000 was spent on the infield bases.
Chesney told Knox News it’s the students he hurts for the most.
“These kids have been working hard and we were looking forward to the start of the season, so I am sure they will be hurt to find out what happened when they return,” he said. “It was really starting to look like a baseball field again.”
Sheryl Ely, director of Parks and Recreation for the city of Knoxville, told Knox News similar vandalism was done at Rocky Hill and Lakeshore parks on Jan. 17.
Erland, the KPD spokesperson, told Knox News a minor was identified as the driver in the Lakeshore Park incident, and there is no suspect in the Rocky Hill vandalism. He said police have no reason to think the vandalism at those parks is connected with the Austin-East vandalism.