Two years ago, the District scored a $100,000 grant from the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, one of Major League Baseball's community outreach programs, to renovate Fort Greble Field, where Ballou High plays its home games. The complex got new turf, dugouts, backstop and bleachers. But just days after then-Mayor Anthony A. Williams celebrated the new field by throwing out the first pitch at Ballou's opener, thieves made off with $14,000 worth of aluminum by stripping the benches off the bleachers, rendering them useless. Clark Ray, then the community outreach director for the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission, was in charge of the project and snapped the photo above before the bleachers' frame collapsed on itself.
Now the Case of the Stolen Bleachers could be standing in the way of the city's bid for a new $32,000 grant from the Baseball Tomorrow Fund to pay for T-ball equipment and uniforms. Ray, now the director of the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, applied for the grant April 1. But city sources said that Cathy Bradley, who administers the baseball fund, has raised concerns about the city's use of the previous grant money. She questioned whether the project had been poorly conceived, considering how quickly and easily the bleachers were stolen.
Bradley declined to comment through a Major League Baseball spokeswoman. The city's application is still pending and the league will make a decision in July. As for Ray, he said it was unfair to hold Parks and Recreation accountable for the previous grant to the Sports Commission. Also, he noted that this year's grant application does not ask for money to spend on new bleachers for Fort Greble.
Would he ever consider putting new bleachers there?
"If we did, we'd have to almost solder the nuts and bolts," Ray said.
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