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Sports Store Donates To Little League Team After Coach Took Money And Left

Deep River Devils

The coach of the Deep River Devils Little League team in Hobart, Ind., is suspected of taking parents’ money, then taking off. (Credit: CBS)

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HOBART, Ind. (CBS) — It appears there will be a baseball season after all for a team of 11-year olds who learned this week about the bad, and good, in life.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports, the bad is that the man who coached the Deep River Devils travel Little League team in Hobart, Ind., is suspected of stealing thousands of dollars meant for team uniforms and tournament entry fees.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports

The good is that the owner of a Tinley Park sports store has come through with uniforms for the 11-year-old boys, and the Hobart Little League will let the Deep River Devils join for the season.

James Garner, the owner of the Sports Station in Tinley Park, tells the Chicago Sun-Times he will provide the boys with hats, jerseys, pants and socks.

Garner’s shop supplies uniforms for about 50,000 kids a year, and always has them in stock, the Sun-Times reported. Usually, they cost $150 to $300 a year, the newspaper reported.

The coach was from South Elgin, and the team was initially impressed with his résumé. He made his way into the Deep River Devils’ lives by dating the mother of one of the players.

But he allegedly duped parents and kids.

Eleven-year-old Zack Merrill loves baseball, and he was thrilled with the coach.

“It was really shocking to see that somebody took this much initiative into coaching us, because we never really had this experience before of having a good coach,” he said.

The coach made big promises to the parents and players: the team would travel throughout northwest Indiana and Illinois, and they’d wear real uniforms.

“We kind of jumped on the band wagon,” Zack’s mother, Lisa Merrill said. “He made it sound exciting. We were going to play 60 games, instead of 30. It’s going to cost a little bit more money.”

It cost $675 per child to sign up for the team. Twelve kids signed up, so in all $8,100 was paid to the coach, who is nowhere to be found.

The Northwest Indiana Times reports felony theft charges are expected against the coach later Wednesday.