Man charged with setting fire to youth sports facilities

Sheds, equipment burned in March and May
Posted at 6:37 PM, Jun 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-28 18:37:57-04
A Hillsborough County man is in jail, accused of setting fire to property at a youth sports complex.
Matthew Ethridge, 27, is charged with two counts of arson, but investigators think he might be responsible for four more fires.
Now the groups impacted by the fires are trying to get things back to normal.
The gates at the youth sports complex in Temple Terrace were locked Tuesday afternoon, but the baseball and soccer leagues that use the space are still offering programs at the facility, even after two fires destroyed buildings on the property recently.
"It kind of took me aback and hurt me a little that someone would do that to a park we work so hard at," said Stephan Knight, Temple Terrace PONY league park president.
The fires destroyed more than $7,000 in equipment.
Ethridge has a lengthy criminal history, including charges for a bomb hoax, burglary, and dealing in stolen property.
"Whatever it takes to give the kids the rewards, because they shouldn't have to suffer for someone else's irresponsibility," Knight said.
The PONY League is planning a free baseball clinic July 9 and is looking for donations and business sponsorships to help raise money for all the equipment lost in the fires.
"We're still a family atmosphere.  We're still here for the kids. It's still more than just baseball," Knight said.
A couple weeks after the fires, the PONY League also discovered someone stole its tractor. That's now being investigated by authorities.
If you'd like to help the youth leagues recoup their losses, or sign your children up for the free baseball clinic, you can contact Coach Knight at 813-309-6479.
The team also has a Go Fund Me page.