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Youth Baseball Team Plays First Tournament Game After Coach’s Alleged Theft

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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) — A youth baseball team that almost saw its season evaporate plays its first tournament game of the season on Friday night.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports, Jeffrey Halter, the former coach of the Deep River Devils traveling baseball team of Hobart, Ind., is accused of stealing thousands of dollars in uniform and tournament entry fees.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports

But many offered help, including Jim Garner, owner of the Sports Station in Tinley Park. He is supplying the team with uniforms Friday night before the Devils’ first tournament game.

Lisa Merrill’s son, Zack, is on the team.

“I think it’s great. Like I said, a lot of people are stepping up. They’re letting us come and play at the tournament even for free, or for reduced entry fees. They’re getting a lot of games – probably more than they would have normally gotten.”

And so far, the team is undefeated in Little League Play.

Halter who 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.

Halter 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.

Halter is now charged with 10 counts of theft by Lake County prosecutors.

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