There won't be a Jackie Robinson statue outside the League 42 youth baseball complex in Wichita, Kan., this season.
At least not physically.
“It won’t be a physical presence, but it will be a spiritual presence," League 42 executive director Bob Lutz told The Times in a phone interview Thursday morning. "And we’ll know that ultimately we’ll have that statue back.”
A bronze statue honoring Robinson that had stood outside the nonprofit youth baseball organization's playing facility since 2021 was stolen last week. Parts of it were found in the remains of a trash can fire seven miles away Tuesday morning, the day before the sports and civil rights icon would have turned 105.
Lutz has vowed that an identical replacement will eventually stand in the same place, but said it would take roughly six months for that to happen. He said the original statue cost the league $41,500 and estimated that a new one would cost $50,000.
In addition, Lutz said, the league plans to spend an additional $50,000 or so for increased security that would include more cameras, better lighting and "landscaping that’ll be designed to keep people maybe from having access to where a truck can back up and load the statue."
"We wanna keep those things from happening again,” he said.
Donations have been pouring in to help with the effort. In addition to a GoFundMe page that has raised nearly $180,000, Lutz said Major League Baseball and its clubs are making a "generous" donation to League 42.
"The statue is the motivation for their donation, but their money is not directly going toward the replacement of the statue,” Lutz said.
MLB did not respond to questions from The Times for this story.
Robinson grew up in Pasadena and played a number of sports at UCLA. He became the first Black player in modern Major League Baseball history when he signed with the Dodgers in 1947. Numerous monuments and statues honoring Robinson stand in Southern California.
The Rose Bowl and UCLA told The Times in emailed statements Wednesday that there have been no incidents or suspicious activity involving the Robinson statues or monuments at their locations and that those sites remain under close watch. On Wednesday, the Rose Bowl celebrated Robinson's 105th birthday at his statue outside of the historic venue in Pasadena.
“The Rose Bowl Stadium was saddened and angered to learn of the inexcusable act of vandalism to the Jackie Robinson statue in Kansas last week,” the venue said in a statement emailed to The Times.
League 42's Robinson statue was cut off at the ankles and stolen in the early morning of Jan. 25. Police said two people were seen on surveillance video dragging the statue to a truck, which was later recovered by investigators. On Tuesday morning, burned pieces of the statue were found in the remains of a trash can fire in Garvey Park.
Wichita Police Department spokesperson Andrew Ford described the original statue honoring Robinson as “not salvageable” during a news conference Tuesday. Ford said that more than 100 people have been interviewed as part of the investigation.
“There will be arrests, but we're going to make sure that when we do, we will have a solid case,” Wichita Police Chief Joe Sullivan said at the news conference.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.