Bid to fix sports field gets father arrested

Cuts lock to obtain tools, sand to make ball diamond playable

Andrew Thomson, Ottawa Citizen

Published: Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Mike Renaud left work early on Monday afternoon to watch his son play in Ottawa's varsity high school baseball championship. Instead, he found himself in the back of a police cruiser, charged with break and enter for what he deemed an innocent effort at rainy-day field repair.

The irrigation technician and one-time youth coach was arrested for cutting the padlock on a maintenance shed to help coaches and students repair a wet diamond at the Nepean Sportsplex.

Mr. Renaud's son, Steve, and his St. Joseph High School teammates were scheduled to play Nepean High School on the Hamilton Yards field. At stake was a trip to the Eastern Ontario regional tournament, which begins today in Oshawa.

The game was delayed for 90 minutes while students and coaches worked to repair the city-owned field, battered by recent rains. Mr. Renaud, 45, joined the teams after calling St. Joseph to make sure the game was still on.

"I figured I would go and work on the field," he said last night from his Barrhaven home. "Digging and raking is what I do most of the day."

Mr. Renaud hauled out his own wheelbarrow, shovel and rake. But the two teams needed more from a nearby shed - plus sand - to make the field playable. A youth coach on hand to watch the game had a set of keys, but they weren't working, Mr. Renaud said.

So Mr. Renaud grabbed his pair of bolt cutters and cut the lock himself. Inside the shed he found a spare identical padlock.

"I wasn't stealing," he said. "I was the only outside participant volunteering to help out."

The situation turned testy after the tools and sand were taken to the field. A groundskeeper arrived and exchanged harsh words with Mr. Renaud, who alleges the man took a swing and grazed his face.

"He started yelling at me and saying he was going to have me charged," Mr. Renaud recalled. "I guess he didn't want anyone on the field because it was wet, it was creating more work for him."
Police officers soon arrived, and handcuffed and charged Mr. Renaud. They remained for about an hour. By that time, weather had forced the game's cancellation after half an inning.

Mr. Renaud is angry he was embarrassed and felt belittled in front of his son and his teammates.
Mr. Renaud was released at the scene and will appear in court on July 12. Ottawa police are still investigating the alleged assault against him.

Barre Campbell, a spokesman for the City of Ottawa, declined comment, saying the arrest was a police matter.

Nick Cuffaro, a St. Joseph teacher and coach, said he understands the police need to follow standard arrest procedure, but felt some sympathy was in order - especially with Mr. Renaud's son watching. Mr. Cuffaro wants the charges dropped, and has called the city and police to complain.

"It's wrong; he clipped a $5 lock," Mr. Cuffaro said. "But he was repairing the field and the coaches and players were all helping. This dad left work early, for an hour was trying to repair the baseball diamond. All he was doing was helping the kids play the game.

"He's not a criminal. The cops could have just given him a ticket. I'm a bit upset about it.

"If they came to see me as a coach at the school, I would have said: Listen, I'll buy you brand new locks with school money tomorrow'."

Mr. Renaud, who coached in the East Nepean Baseball Association, once volunteered at outdoor municipal ice rink.

He remembers children often cutting locks on dressing sheds during cold winter afternoons.
"Every other week a lock was getting cut and nothing was ever made of that," he said.

"The fact was, the field wasn't going to get any better by staring at it."

For the record, St. Joseph won Tuesday's rescheduled game at Britannia Park. They left for Oshawa last night to play in the Eastern Ontario Secondary School Athletics Association regional finals.

With files from Ciara Byrne