Fire destroys youth sports league field house

Fire destroyed the youth sports field house at Strawberry Park in Pasadena
July 7, 2011 4:36:44 PM PDT
The season may be over, but the heartache is just beginning for a youth sports league after fire destroys their property in Pasadena.

The only fortunate element of this story is the timing. Although sectional playoffs are now underway, the spring season for the league is long over, and that leaves the Pasadena group with a lot of donations to raise before the fall season begins.

The pictures posted on the Pasadena Pee-Wee League's website show players and family, the heart of any team. The field house and concession stand aren't shown, and on Thursday, it was too late to capture it as it once was.

"Our garage where we stored our pitching machines, our lawn mowers, ladders, it's all gone," Pasadena Pee-Wee League President Ray Valenzuela said.

At 3am, the Pasadena Fire Department was called to Strawberry Park. The two-story building was reduced to only one as the roof collapsed. The building was destroyed, along with everything inside.

"We do have a roof collapsed. We had to bring out some machinery so that we can get the roof off of some of the other structures so that we can actually make entry to do an investigation and to run our dogs," Pasadena Fire Marshal David Brannon said.

The dog is trained to detect accelerant. Investigators are collecting evidence to determine whether the fire was accidental or intentionally set.

But for Valenzuela, the cause is secondary to the result.

"I was out there this morning and I did tear up watching, and I've been telling my son all day long I feel like I lost something," he said.

Somewhere in all the debris are trophies spanning 40 years of kids playing baseball on the field that can't be replaced. It's what Valenzuela's son remembers from his first games.

"Every time I go up there, I see baseball stuff like equipment and everything and it reminds me of playing here," former player Ray Valenzuela Jr. said.

But it's more than memories. All the concession equipment that helped feed the fans is gone, along with computers and backup equipment for players who can't afford their own.

The team will have to replace all that, and all-star player "Panchito" Guerrero plans to help.

"Try to get money and support this stuff and try to get back all this stuff," Guerrero said.

The building itself is owned by the city of Pasadena. The fire chief says it will eventually be replaced, but the league has to provide everything inside.


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