Thief steals Newark little league pitching machine

Newark Little League President Manny Padilla came across an unusual sight Tuesday morning as he opened the batting cages at Newark Junior High School.

"I found the lock open and I thought, 'Oh, one of our guys must have left the gate open,'" Padilla said.

But a quick look, and Padilla realized that the league's pitching machine was missing.

"Took a look at the chain and it was cut. And then I said, 'Oh never mind. Someone cut the chain, I think the machine was stolen.'"

Sometime in the middle of the night late Monday or early Tuesday, someone stole an Atec Sports M2 pitching machine, worth $2,500.

Padilla said the device has been integral for their teams.

"It kind of gives that repetition, without a coach having to sit there and pitch, or a kid sitting there and pitch that many repetitious pitches," Padilla said.

The theft comes just days before the league's opening day on Saturday.

"It's tough," Padilla said. "As volunteers, we all give our time, money, all our energy into this, and for someone to come take it from kids is just heartbreaking."

The batting cages were installed just last summer, in time for this season. The league has 300 kids, ages 4 to 16.

"People were fighting to get in here," Padilla said of the batting cages. "It's something we've been looking forward to for over 10 years now."

Newark police said they've made no arrests.

"Hopefully word of mouth gets around, if they hear of someone selling our equipment, we can get back to Newark PD, and they need to be prosecuted," Padilla said.

Stephen Crouch, 11, who is in the league, said he's upset by the theft.

"I would tell them to give it back. And stop stealing because it's just not right," Stephen said.