Two beloved Oneonta landmarks were damaged Saturday night in an arson and graffiti incident, according to the Oneonta Police Department.
Oneonta police said the third base dugout at the Doc Knapp Field, commonly known as the Oneonta Little League Field, was set on fire, and the neighboring Swart-Wilcox House was vandalized with graffiti.
Oneonta Lt. Douglas Brenner said the police department received a report of a fire at the field at approximately 7:20 Saturday night. Brenner said police found the third base dugout engulfed in flames. He said the Oneonta Fire department arrived soon after and put out the fire, but the dugout was badly damaged.
After further inspection, Brenner said, police discovered obscene graffiti painted on surrounding structures, including the Swart-Wilcox House, Riverside Elementary School and a private vehicle in the area.
Brenner expressed disgust with the incident.
“When it affects something as positive and community-based as little league,” Brenner said, “it’s enough to make you really angry and we get impatient. We will do whatever it takes to catch whoever did it.”
Billy Erario, president of Oneonta Little League, called the incident “disheartening,” but seemed hopeful for the coming season which, he said, starts April 26. Erario said the dugout was burned beyond repair and would be taken down “within the the next week or so.”
“The outpouring of support from the community is heart-warming,” Erario said. “We are very appreciative. Right now we are contacting our insurance company, but when it comes time to clean up, we will let everyone know.”
Erario said more than 200 children participate in Little League every season which, he said, runs until October, if the weather permits. He said more than 35 coaches are involved in the league.
Oneonta City Historian Mark Simonson said “it hurts” to see the Swart-Wilcox House, Oneonta’s oldest structure, vandalized.