FORT WORTH — It's mid-October, and the days are rapidly getting shorter. Usually players in the Pioneer Youth Baseball and Softball Association can toss the ball around until well after sunset.
Not any more.
Copper thieves made off with electrical wiring, leaving three of their seven fields without working lights.
Jason Wiggins brought his son out to the field early Friday evening to practice before the sun went down.
"Now we can't use the lights," he said. "We have to find some other means of practicing and helping out the kids. So we're stuck."
Chris McCoy is the league's vice president. He volunteers his time along with many other parents to keep the league up and running.
"If the fields aren't lit, then we don't play," he said. "We play a game every night during the spring, and without lights there is no season."
McCoy said his organization doesn't have enough money to repair the lights. More than half of the poles on the field were damaged when the criminals pried open circuit boxes and ripped out the copper wiring.
He estimated damage to be at least $10,000. It's the third time the fields have been hit by thieves in the last two years.
"As you can see, it's not a multimillion-dollar facility, but we try to improve when we can and when the funds allow," McCoy said. "This is only a step backwards every time it happens."
The league depends on donations from parents and fund-raising by the players to repair and maintain the fields.
McCoy said the people who ripped off the copper weren't just stealing from the ballpark; they were stealing from the kids.
"It's sad and frustrating and heartless — all at the same time," he said.
For now, practices will be short — just like the fall days — unless the organization can raise enough money to turn the lights back on.