Vandalism won’t deter Austin-East High School baseball coach’s efforts to rebuild program

KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (WATE) — The search continues for the person or persons responsible for tearing up the baseball field at Austin-East Magnet High School. The baseball team plans to make a comeback this year after a break of a few years.

Kaylin Chesney is proud to be the school’s new baseball coach. He is a former Roadrunner himself, but returning to the baseball program has become more difficult. After months of preparing the baseball field, it’s back to square one for Coach Chesney because someone made the diamond unplayable.

“This school has certainly been through a lot of tragedies,” Chesney said. “And to be honest, a baseball field is nothing like the loss of lives and things that have happened. But this neighborhood, this community is always looking for some kind of light to make good things happen on this side of town.”

The Knox County students haven’t been to school all week. Police say the vandalism incident happened just before 11:15 am on Monday morning. Chesney learned about the condition of the pitch on Thursday.

“I jumped in my truck and drove over here, and when I turned the corner and saw the mud at the entrance there, I thought, ‘Ugh,'” Chesney said, shaking his head.

According to the coach, the gate to the field was not locked at the time of the incident because there was dirt in the way of the gate. New lamps have recently been installed.

“We were on a work order to smooth out (the ground) again so we could close the gate and re-lock it,” Chesney explained. “It just happened, even though they hadn’t gotten out of here yet and it was snowing, so I couldn’t get out and get to that point yet.”

He estimates it will cost about $6,000 to $10,000 to repair the dug baseball field, but the good news is that a One Knoxville Sporting Club fundraising campaign has already raised more than $11,000.

“We know from past experience that the people of Knoxville want to help when given the opportunity,” said Sam Weisbrod, director of growth for One Knoxville SC. “It could be as simple as being the first person to post a GoFundMe page or just a way for people to jump in.”

“When I saw it, that was the first thing I thought. First, the money we had put into the field. And two, man, that money that we were trying to raise I have to turn around and spend to make that GoFundMe page so successful, that’s a blessing,” said Coach Chesney. “And I couldn’t be more excited about it.”

The Knoxville Police Department reports that they have located the Chevy pickup truck that was allegedly used to make the tracks on the field and the investigation continues to hold someone responsible.

“I’ve seen them post pictures of the truck and stuff like that, but I don’t know who they say it is,” Chesney said. “Whether it’s a student or an adult, I have no idea.”

The coach looks for other available fields so the new Austin-East baseball team can practice. He hopes they can get their field repaired before their home opener in March. Several other local high school baseball coaches have reached out to Chesney to support the new Austin-East program.

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