Bandits thriving under adversity

Flooding forces Quad Cities to move last three games of homestand

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April 28, 2008 7:29 PM

The Quad Cities River Bandits had to begin their road trip a bit earlier than expected.

With flooding from the nearby Mississippi River surrounding Modern Woodmen Park, the River Bandits were forced to relocate the remaining three games of their homestand with the Lansing Lugnuts to Cedar Rapids, Clinton and on the campus of the University of Iowa.

"I can't speak highly enough of [General Manager] Jack Roeder in Cedar Rapids, [GM] Ted Tornow in Clinton and [University of Iowa head coach] Jack Dahm," Quad Cities General Manager Kirk Goodman said. "All of their support has been terrific. Those guys and their programs have opened their doors for our players and we could never thank them enough."

The sudden change of venue didn't seem to affect the River Bandits on Monday night.

Justin Roberson delivered a walk-off infield single in the bottom of the ninth inning as Quad Cities rallied past Lansing, 4-3, at Cedar Rapids' Veterans Memorial Stadium.

The resilient River Bandits will continue their unexpected trip at Alliant Energy Field in Clinton on Tuesday with a noon start before shifting to Duane Banks Field in Iowa City for a 6 p.m. game on Wednesday.

What could have been a three-day washout has instead turned into a strong show of solidarity from fellow Midwest League general managers and the Hawkeyes.

"Everyone has been incredibly accommodating," Goodman said. "We have very nice relations with Lansing. [Lugnuts manager] Clayton McCullough visited local, smaller fields with us. They've been understanding and professional about the whole process."

After heavy rains swept through the area last Thursday and Friday, the National Weather Service forecasted that additional precipitation over the weekend would cause the Mississippi River to crest at approximately 19.6 feet on Tuesday. A height of 16.5 feet was reached last Wednesday.

"Flood Stage" level is signified by a river height of 15 feet and "Major Flood Stage" level represents a river height of 17 feet. The record high for flooding in the area was set in 1993 with the river cresting at 22.5 feet.

"We've been in constant contact with the City of Davenport, who first alerted us with possible flooding situations last Friday," Goodman said. "They gave us their predictions and the forecast from the National Weather Service.

"We felt confident we'd be all right to play here, but the forecast changed over the weekend. Our parking lot and entrance to the ballpark are covered with over a foot of water. The fire and police departments shared viable plans, but ultimately, the Midwest League made the decision to play elsewhere. It's just safer that way."

Modern Woodmen Park, built in 1931 on the banks of the Mississippi River, is the fourth-oldest active professional ballpark behind Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium. It lies in the shadow of the 3,850-foot Centennial Bridge, which connects Rock Island, Ill. to Davenport, Iowa. The river and ballpark are so close that home runs traveling over the right-field fence often experience a watery landing.

When the ballpark was renovated prior to the 2004 season, the City of Davenport built in berms and floodwalls as added protection from the periodic flooding that inevitably occurs along the banks of the river. The safeguards remain in place, and on Saturday city workers and firemen were seen stacking sandbags atop the floodwalls.

Despite the fact that the field and stadium are both well protected, access to the ballpark has been completely cut off. The flooding has continued to extend past the railroad tracks on South Gaines St., completely surrounding the ballpark.

"Honestly, it looks like the ballpark is floating as its own island," Goodman said with a laugh. "No water has snuck inside and the field itself is completely playable, but that river is the second largest in the world. If it wants to flood, it's going to flood."

Tickets to the rescheduled games are being offered to fans at a discounted price of $5 for any seat in the ballpark. Tickets that have already been purchased to any of the three games previously scheduled at Modern Woodmen Park will be honored at the new game locations. Fans that cannot make it will also have the opportunity to exchange their tickets for any future home game this season, similar to the standard procedure for a rainout.

As for Goodman and his front office, they're tired but still working diligently.

"We thought about having a Hawaiian theme night," Goodman said. "I'm not sure about recreating the floating island gimmick, but it could make for a fun, dry evening."

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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