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Friday, April 27 News

$10K damage: 'Cheater' graffiti vandals strike Fairfield American LL stadium

The home stadium of the Fairfield American Little League was vandalized overnight Tuesday, with the word "Cheaters" and more graffiti scrawled on the field's scoreboard and other parts of the complex.

"CHEATERS" was spray-painted in bold white paint on the dugout and press box, as well as well as "Cheaters ... make you a loser!!!" in the team's complex behind Mill Hill School in the Southport section of town.

The field is the home of the Fairfield American Little League teams, which wrapped up regular-season play last month.

An exhibition game for the league's 9-year-old all-star team's B squad was scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Mill Hill School field. Fairfield American President Neil Spagna, by phone from Los Angeles, said no plans had been formulated to delay or suspend the exhibition game.

"We will not let this slow us down," Spagna said. "We're a resilient bunch. It's a speed bump for us. We'll overcome this."

The organization's all-star teams in recent years have been a force in both state and New England Little League tournaments. It won state and New England championships is 2010 and 2012 and went to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., both years.

This season's Fairfield American all-star squad was scheduled to play in the Section 1 championship game against Farmington on Wednesday night in Orange.

Police Officer Michael Guilfoyle, who was dispatched to investigate the report Wednesday morning, returned to the field in the afternoon to meet with league official Mike Steed.

The vandalism, estimated in the police report at $10,000, was reported by a custodian at the school at 7:47 a.m. Wednesday.

Police did remove some evidence from the scene in the morning, Guilfoyle said, but did not disclose what the evidence was.

Guilfoyle returned to the scene in the afternoon to talk to Steed to see if anything had happened at the previous night's game that might give police information about the perpetrator of the vandalism.

Steed said the vandalism was first discovered when players showed up for an early-morning practice. He said that judging from the height of where the graffiti was painted, the perpetrators must have been relatively tall. Two of the five words were misspelled, he added.

"It's ugly, unfortunate and shameful," Steed said.

Fairfield American officials who toured the field to inspect the vandals' damage, reported to Spagna that the scoreboard, dugouts and clubhouse were targeted.

"We're already in repair mode. We all had to repaint them (scoreboard, dugouts, clubhouse) earlier this year," Spagna said of graffiti-damaged areas. "I think at this point we need to still determine the damage to the scoreboard. It's a 5-digit scoreboard; it's expensive."

Spagna was told that two sponsors' signs also were "yanked off" the scoreboard.

"We're going to do whatever we have to do have the players on the field tonight (Wednesday)," Spagna said. "This is an unfortunate event, and something that shouldn't be seen in youth sports. It's a sad situation."

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At around 2 p.m., a painter hired by the league was finishing up covering over the words on the clubhouse with fresh green paint. John Hellgren, a self-employed painter from Easton, said he received an emergency call from league officials to get the vandalism painted over before the evening's scheduled game.

"The words `cheaters' were all over the place," Hellgren said, "written five times in big letters."

Staff writers Reid L. Walmark and Gretchen Webster contributed to this report.