Many Padres fans don’t even realize when they buy a $10 hot dog or a $20 tall boy: Roughly 10 percent of the take at many stands is supposed to be donated to charity.
Charities staff those concession stands at Petco Park and, in return, they get to keep anywhere from nine to 12 percent of the proceeds for their charity.
A group called Chula Vista Fast Pitch operates more stands than any other charity in the park – netting it potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, according to documents obtained by Voice of San Diego. The only problem is Chula Vista Fast Pitch does not exist.
Chula Vista Fast Pitch doesn’t have a website and it has no permits to use fields in Chula Vista. Official tax and business filings, as well as internet archives, show that such a charity did exist at one time. But it shut down in 2014. (The charity was called “Chula Vista Fastpitch.” Fastpitch, a version of softball, is one word, but the group at Petco spells it out in two words.)
Searches for many different permutations of Chula Vista Fast Pitch online, in business directories and in tax filings returned no current nonprofit organizations.
People familiar with the softball world, including the former founders of Chula Vista Fastpitch, say no one is using that name currently for softball purposes.
And yet, Chula Vista Fast Pitch has been operating in Petco Park for the last nine years. Multiple people familiar with the operation said it was an open secret that the charity doesn’t really exist.
So who oversees these groups? The city of San Diego owns Petco Park. It entrusts the management of the facility to the Padres. The Padres, in turn, entrust the management of concessions to Delaware North, a company involved in food, venue and hotel management all over the world.
Delaware North requires the nonprofits to submit paperwork on a semi-regular basis to verify their charitable status, according to emails obtained by Voice.
Officials for the company said they would investigate Chula Vista Fast Pitch after receiving questions from Voice.
The fact Chula Vista Fast Pitch was operating in some form and taking revenue from Petco Park charitable operations shocked the former softball league’s founders.
“Wow, okay, Jesus,” said Jackson Wyatt, who formed Chula Vista Fastpitch with his wife in 2008. Wyatt said he had no idea anyone was still using the name.
Wyatt and his wife closed Chula Vista Fastpitch in 2014, he said, because they’d just had a daughter and no longer had the bandwidth to keep the league running.
“It seems so dumb that no one at Petco Park would notice,” said Wyatt. “Every softball team and all the leagues know each other. It seems very silly that’s the name someone’s gonna come up with, because right away it’s obvious [that it doesn’t exist.]”
Hot Dogs Are Big Business
Chula Vista Fast Pitch has run an average of 12 stands per night at Petco, according Delaware North officials. Anyone who has been to a Ballpark Eats, michelada stand or Mr. Softee might have dropped money in the group’s bank account.
The stands bring in money that can be a massive boost to charities.
Operating the stands, Chula Vista Fast Pitch collected $3.7 million in net sales between Jan. 1 and June 5, according to receipts Voice obtained. And that only included the first two months of baseball season. (Charities in the program also staff the stands during concerts and other events.)
Ten percent of $3.7 million is $370,000.
Delaware North officials declined to answer questions about how they verify whether a charity is real or not. After receiving an email from Voice, they did say they planned to look into the matter.
“We are actively looking into the recent information presented to us regarding the status of Chula Vista Fastpitch and will determine our course of action after our review is complete,” wrote Charlie Roberts, the director of public relations.
Padres officials put an arm’s length between themselves and Delaware North.
“The Padres do not have operational oversight of [Delaware North’s nonprofit program,]” wrote Craig Hughner, a Padres spokesman, in an email. Delaware North “is solely responsible for the staffing of their concession stands at Petco Park.”
Hughner later confirmed the Padres are following up with Delaware North on Chula Vista Fast Pitch’s role at the stadium.
Meet the Players
If Chula Vista Fast Pitch doesn’t exist as a nonprofit, then who is operating the stands at Petco Park under that name? Multiple sources, who asked to remain anonymous, pointed us to two men: Noly Ilarde and Martin Rebollo.
When reached by phone, Rebollo acknowledged that he worked with Chula Vista Fast Pitch.
“I help them out,” he said.
Rebollo said he acts as a manager and a supervisor for the group. He also said his daughter is involved with softball and with Chula Vista Fast Pitch.
However, Rebollo told me he wasn’t in charge.
I asked him who is.
“Who’s the main person?” Rebollo asked, repeating the question. He told me he only knew the last name of the man in charge, but couldn’t remember the first name.
I told Rebollo it had been difficult to find any mention of Chula Vista Fast Pitch and asked him it if it was a real nonprofit.
He said he believed it was.
I also asked if anything potentially inappropriate or illegal was going on with the group.
“No, not that I’m aware of,” he said.
At Petco Park during a recent Padres game, I found Ilarde, who said Rebollo was the one really in charge of Chula Vista Fast Pitch and the stands it operates.
“Martin’s in charge. He’s on the paperwork,” Ilarde said.
Ilarde acknowledged he is a manager for Chula Vista Fast Pitch, but would say little else, before disappearing into the back of a Ballpark Eats stand near Section 116.
I told both Ilarde and Rebollo that others told me the two of them ran the group and they should contact me before deadline if they had anything they wanted to add. I didn’t hear from either of them again.
In my conversation with Rebollo, he mentioned that he was associated with a second group called Chula Vista Fast Patch. A “C V Fast Patch” was once registered with California’s Secretary of State. It lists its address as a home owned by Rebollo, according to property records.
C V Fast Patch claimed to be a softball nonprofit in paperwork submitted to the state. The Internal Revenue Service, however, automatically revoked the group’s charitable status in 2018, because it hadn’t filed taxes for three years.
Jackson Wyatt, Chula Vista Fastpitch’s original founder, said Rebollo did have a loose connection to the original Chula Vista Fastpitch. He said Rebollo’s brother was a coach for one of the teams.
“I would hate for the legacy to be this, because it was a cool league and helped a lot of kids get started,” he said. “That someone would turn around and use it for illicit purposes … you know nothing surprises me anymore.”