ARLINGTON — Children on the Southeast Arlington Little League will step to the plate Saturday six months after being benched this past fall.The league was left in debt after its former president allegedly emptied its coffers, forcing it to cancel the fall season. Claudia Yamell Castillo is accused of spending the money on nail salons, outlet shopping and checks made payable to cash, police say. Arlington police arrested the 35-year-old at her place of work at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services in September, in connection with the theft of $23,113.62 from the league.New President Lucas Larson said the league has seen a significant increase in participation this spring, with opening day scheduled for Saturday at Cravens Park off Matlock Road.The league now has 400 youths, up from 290 last spring, and 22 board members. At the time the thefts occurred, the league only had six board members, and Castillo was the only one with access to the bank account. “Our board of directors has grown substantially,” Larson said. “We’ve probably got a bigger volunteer base than we’ve ever had. That was lacking before, and why things got to where they were. There was not enough involvement.” Shortly after the news of the league’s troubles broke last fall, the Texas Rangers donated $20,000, the city waived the league’s field-use rental debt, and Spring Creek Barbeque donated an undisclosed amount of money. Castillo was released from jail on $25,000 bail, and her case has been referred to the economic crimes unit of the Tarrant County district attorney’s office. Because it is still an active investigation, the district attorney’s office could not comment further, spokeswoman Melody McDonald said. “It was most definitely an unfortunate and horrible thing that happened, but the benefit is it stimulated a lot of response in the community and prompted a greater level of volunteerism,” Larson said. Larson said that half of the 400 youths who will play this spring are new to the league. The board also changed its financial operation, and all members review the prior month’s treasurer’s report at the beginning of every meeting, he said.“It has been a long six months, and we’ll see the reward and dividends pay off when we see 400 kids out there next Saturday,” Larson said.
Monica S. Nagy, 817-390-7792 Twitter:@MonicaNagyFWST