ALAMEDA -- During the worst drought in a century, an estimated 100,000 gallons of water flooded the baseball field at College of Alameda over the weekend after vandals opened the main water valve and smashed six sprinkler heads, forcing the cancellation of three championship games Sunday, police and baseball officials said.
No one has been arrested for the crimes, which occurred sometime between 9 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. Sunday, Alameda police Chief Paul Rolleri said. Police have leads on a suspect and are also reviewing surveillance videotape from the college field.
Rolleri said that members of the opposing teams who were slated to play against the Alameda teams Sunday are not suspected of the vandalism.
"It was a really deliberate, extensive attempt to ruin that field. Essentially what they did was render it not playable and they had to cancel all the games for Sunday," Rolleri said. "It's irresponsible on so many levels and I think the community should be upset about this."
Besides the flooding damage, two advertising banners were ripped from fences and destroyed, bags of chalk were ripped open and chalk was scattered in the dugout, said Pat Bail, president of Alameda Babe Ruth Baseball League. The pitchers mound was a muddy mess and someone dug a hole on the right side of the batters box, leaving it unusable, she said.
She estimated damage costs at $10,000 to $12,000, which she said could be partially covered by insurance.
The three end-of-season games that were slated to be played Sunday by teams of older teenage boys were canceled and won't be rescheduled, costing the league money that would have been made at the gate and causing heartbreak to the players, said Bail, who is also the commissioner of District Four, which covers Alameda, San Leandro and Oakland teams.
Bail said Babe Ruth took over the management of the field from the college and the city in March and spent several thousand dollars to get it into shape.
"We spent a lot of money to get the field in proper condition. It's a devastating loss to us in more ways than one. The vindictiveness and the shocking action is a devastating blow to a nonprofit organization (whose) primary goal is to provide a safe and secure place for young people to play baseball," she said.
Police don't know exactly when the crimes occurred but have a 10-hour window between 9 p.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. Sunday when no one was at the field. If the water was on during the entire 10 hours, as many as 100,000 gallons could have been wasted, Bail said she learned from the groundskeeper.
Neley Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the East Bay Municipal Water District, said the college will have to wait for their water bill to see what the cost will be, but it could be as much as $530. "We are more concerned about the water loss at this point," Rodriguez said. "This is definitely not something we want to see during a drought."
Bail has her own ideas about who might be behind the crimes.
"I believe it was someone who had an interest in having Babe Ruth fail in managing its field," she said. "Whoever did this is very familiar with this particular part of the field. They knew where the valve is and they knew where the sprinklers are. I'm very disappointed that if whoever did this has a complaint with the adults who manage the field, they would take it out on the kids involved."
Police declined to comment.
Anyone with information should call Alameda police at 510-337-8340. There is a $5,000 reward from an anonymous donor for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the vandalism.
Follow Kristin J. Bender at Twitter/kjbender.