Severe Flooding Forces Davenport, Iowa Minor League Baseball Club on the Road for Weeks

The historic and deadly flooding that has crippled the Midwest through the winter and into the spring, and caused billions of dollars in damage to farms and infrastructure, has forced Davenport, Iowa’s minor league baseball team to the road for most of the six week old season.

 

In “Field of Dreams,” the iconic 1989 film homage to fathers, sons and small-town baseball, the long-deceased Shoeless Joe Jackson, played by Ray Liotta, reappears in uniform on a field that’s bordered by acres of corn. Protagonist Ray Kinsella, played by Kevin Costner, an anonymous, baseball-loving farmer, had built the field in his backyard to somehow attract his deceased dad, a one-time minor leaguer, from the great beyond.

Thanks to time travel and poetic license, Shoeless Joe, two teams worth of early 20th century baseball greats, and Ray’s dad all emerged from the corn fields as young men to play a game. Kinsella and his younger-than-himself dad famously played catch and then the young-but-deceased ballplayers returned to from whence they came, walking back into the corn.

Shoeless Joe was the last to go.

Before disappearing into the corn, he famously asked Ray, “Is this heaven?”

Ray’s reply? “No, it’s Iowa”

 

 

 

QUAD CITIES RIVER BANDITS IN FIRST PLACE, DESPITE AN UN-HEAVENLY, FLOOD RAVAGED EARLY SEASON

Residents of Davenport and other sections of Eastern Iowa that abut the Mississippi River might use a descriptor other than heavenly to describe the prolonged, massive flooding that has persisted since winter.

The river’s rising waters, which are forecast to affect millions across as many as 25 states through the summer, have made it impossible for the Quad City River Bandits, Davenport’s Class A minor league baseball club affiliated with the Houston Astros, to play at home for most of the season’s first six weeks.

That the team is somehow in first place in the Midwest League’s Western Division after 30 games played mostly on the road is astounding. They’ve been Road Warriors because they can’t access their stadium as it is surrounded by water.

Modern Woodmen Park, the River Bandit’s home field, is saved from floodwaters by a levee system. It can be reached during some floods, thanks to a 21 foot high catwalk. But that was not enough to deal with the record-high water that hit 22.64 feet on May 2nd, the day after a flood wall unexpectedly broke, according to the National Weather Service.

 

River Bandits Stadium

Modern Woodmen Park and downtown Davenport is seen from the air as flood waters flowed into the city on Wednesday, May 1. A flood wall broke the day before, sending water to near record levels with little to no warning (Photo credit: Brian Powers/The Des Moines Register)

 

Per a May 4 story by Phil McCausland on nbcnews.com, that means “the players are unable to practice regularly, stadium employees have had to find other jobs and the team has known little else than the road for most of the season.”

“They have had three practices at our field,” general manager Jacqueline Holm told McCausland. “They’ve barely been on the field. It’s been difficult for them to do anything. We’ve basically had to use the team bus as a clubhouse and storage unit.”

Davenport, with a population of 103,000, has in fared better than most other towns along the Mississippi’s most flood-prone sections, thanks to a unique flood protection system.

McCausland noted that many towns along the Mississippi River have built flood walls to protect against rising waters, but Davenport has gone in a different direction for decades. Instead, it has worked to build flood-resistant buildings and created a riverwalk area around the ballpark that can accommodate the additional water. A temporary berm system can also be built when necessary.

“We have embraced the Mississippi River,” Frank Klipsch, Davenport’s mayor since 2016, said. “It has become more and more popular to take on this kind of resiliency plan because if we put up a wall, it makes it worse for communities further downriver.”

 

Image: Davenport Iowa Flooding
Ryan Lincoln maneuvers his boat through flood waters on May 2, 2019 in Davenport, Iowa (Photo credit: 
Kevin E. Schmid/Quad-City Times via Zuma Press)

 

Some unlucky business owners saw multiple feet of water flow into their restaurants and storefronts last week when a temporary levee, which had already stood for 40 days this year, suddenly broke.

This kind of flooding is not something most of the River Bandits players, most in their late teens to early 20s, could have imagined. It makes their already difficult road to reaching the major leagues even tougher.

Manager Ray Hernandez praised his young players’ resiliency and ability to maintain focus despite the challenges. But the first-year skipper admitted he didn’t have all the answers.

“Even if it was my 15th season managing, I don’t know if I would know how to handle this,” Hernandez told McCausland. “I mean, who would I even call to ask and get advice?”

 

MINOR LEAGUE SPORTS PARTICULARLY VULNERABLE TO EXTREME WEATHER

It stands to reason that minor league teams, no matter the sport, are much more susceptible to the harsh effects of extreme weather and climate change than their wealthier major league counterparts.

A number of lower division English football/soccer clubs have been buffeted by flooding in recent years. In some cases, the impacts have bordered on the existential.

Andrew Gate, writing in the April 30 issue of Ecologistcited these examples:

  • Sixth tier Gloucester City AFC have yet to have a permanent stadium after floods destroyed their former home Meadow Park in 2007. A plan was approved on May 3 to build a new venue on the same site.
  • Flooding nearly meant the end of 127-year old Tadcaster Albion, currently playing in the eighth tier, not once, but twice. Water completely submerged the club’s Ings Lane Stadium in 2015 and again this March. The club’s press officer Jay Taylor noted that the club faces an uncertain future if such flooding happens again.

 

Ings Lane

Flooding submerged Tadcaster Albion’s Ings Lane Stadium in March (Photo credit: Tadcaster Albion)

 

  • Ramsbottom United, also in the eighth tier, has had to battle back from flooding twice, in 2012 and 2015 their home was completely submerged. Club Secretary Tony Cunningham told Gate that, “In 2015, the dressing rooms, the teabar and even the elevated Sponsors Lounge were submerged. It took us well over £40,000 ($US52,010 today) to get the club back up and running.”

 

For a club in the lower reaches of English football, an unexpected £40,000 hit can be crushing. Ramsbottom United, thanks to prudent management, has been able to withstand the flood-related costs until now.

But there are no guarantees going forward.

 


 

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UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Eco-Athlete, Hopefully Will Be Gang Green’s (aka NY Jets) Next Quarterback

This year’s NFL draft is considered by many so-called experts to be a quarterback bonanza. Many mock drafts have four QBs — in alphabetical order, they are Josh Allen of Wyoming, Sam Darnold of USC, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, and Josh Rosen of UCLA — being chosen in the top 10 picks of the first round. In fact, there is a solid chance that the first three picks of the draft will be quarterbacks. It says here that, if he is available when Gang Green, aka the New York Jets, my New York Jets make the third overall pick in the first round, they should select Rosen for two good reasons: 1. He’s the best pure passer in the draft and has a high football IQ, and 2. He’s an eco-athlete! 

 

EDITORS’ WARNING: THE FIRST TEN PARAGRAPHS OF THIS GSB POST GET INTO THE MINUTIAE OF THE NFL DRAFT, THE ANNUAL SELECTION OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL STARS THAT DRAWS A TELEVISION AUDIENCE OF ALMOST 10 MILLION VIEWERS, AS WELL AS THE PSYCHOLOGICAL SCARS OF NEW YORK JETS FANS. IF THIS DOES NOT APPEAL TO YOU BUT YOU ARE INTERESTED IN THE ECO-ATHLETE ASPECT OF THIS STORY, PLEASE SKIP AHEAD TO THE PROMPT BELOW. THANK YOU.

The New York Jets have been in the quarterback desert for almost 50 years, the halcyon days of Joe Willie Namath and the miracle of Super Bowl III. As a Jets fan since the then, I — and my brothers and sisters in green — have suffered, quarterback-wise, through the unspeakably awful (Browning Nagle, Geno Smith), the hopeful-but-ultimately-meh (Richard Todd, Mark Sanchez), the good-ones-derailed-by-injury (Chad Pennington) and the pretty-good-but-did-they-really-bloody-pick-him-before-Dan Marino?!?! (Ken O’Brien).

 

Browning Nagle

Browning Nagle, one of many Jets quarterback busts over the past 40 years (Photo credit: Gang Green Nation)

 

That legacy of abject failure means most Jets fans approach the first round of the 2018 draft — which takes place April 26 in Dallas — with typical sports fan hope (“we’re picking third, we need a quarterback AGAIN and there are four top QB prospects. We will get one of them!”) leavened by a heaping helping of fatalism (“not all of them will be good and these idiots will pick the wrong guy!” and/or “even if they pick the right guy, he’ll get hurt!”)

And that fatalism is amped up by the fact that the Jets, originally slotted to pick sixth in the first round (the 32 NFL teams pick in inverse order of their finish the season before — the team with the worst record picks first, the team that won the Super Bowl picks 32nd), traded two their two* second round draft picks this year and their second round pick in 2019 to the Indianapolis Colts to move up to the third slot as they were fearful of missing out on the Big Four. Second round draft picks are expected to turn out to be solid-to-very good starters so that was a heavy price to pay. But if you don’t have a quarterback, you’re nowhere, so, it says here, it was a trade the Jets had to make.

And that amped up fatalism has been dialed up to DEFCON1^ status because, as good as the Class of 2018 quarterbacks appear to be — Allen has one of the most powerful arms seen in recent years, Darnold looks like the complete package, especially his ability to improvise under pressure, Mayfield is a leader and is very accurate, and Rosen is seen as the best pure passer and the most intelligent of the bunch — none are sure things. They all have flaws: Allen’s accuracy, Darnold turns the ball over too much, Mayfield is too short, and Rosen has a concussion history and is alleged to have personality issues (or, as Sam Alipour of ESPN The Magazine puts it, while “roughly half of draft-loving America feels he’s a future franchise QB, while the other half fears he’s a crap-stirring, system-disrupting locker room poison pill.”)

So, who should the Jets pick? It depends on who will be available.

With the draft two weeks away, conventional wisdom has it that the Cleveland Browns, picking first and with a three decades long need at QB, will select Darnold. As an aside, if you’re unfamiliar with the NFL draft and the first 500+ words of this post make no sense, rent the 2014 movie “Draft Day,” starring Kevin Costner. It gives you a Hollywood-i-fied version of the draft, it’s entertaining and Costner’s character runs the draft for the Cleveland Browns. Art imitating life.

The New York Giants — the “older brother” rival of the Jets — have the second pick. Eli Manning won two Super Bowls (2008, 2012) for them at QB but he’s 37. Backup Davis Webb, a third round pick last year, is untested. If these QBs are really “all that”, then the Giants will pick one. If they opt to stay with Manning and Webb, they could trade down to amass more picks, to a team more desperate for a signal-caller (Denver, Miami, Buffalo, and Arizona are all in that predicament, to one degree or another). Or, they stay put pick the best non-quarterback in the draft. I think Big Blue will pick a QB. My guess — and it’s just a guess — is that they will take Josh Allen, loving his big arm in the cold weather games of the northeast. But, for the sake of this Jets-centric post, let’s assume they take a non-QB (pass rusher Bradley Chubb would be my choice in that case), giving Gang Green the choice of the law firm of Allen, Mayfield, and Rosen.

I would pick Josh Rosen.

 

Josh Rosen Michael Owen Baker:Associated Press

Josh Rosen, working out for NFL scouts in the run up to the draft (Photo credit: Michael Owen Baker/Associated Press)

 

My biggest concern is his concussion history but I’m not worried about the personality stuff. And on the field, I like his vision, decision making and arm. He’s not as good a runner as the other three but he moves well enough to extend plays. If Darnold somehow is available when the Jets pick, I would take him. Otherwise, for me, it’s Rosen.

 

Rosen Darnold Kevin kuo USA Today

Josh Rosen (l) and Sam Darnold shake hands after Darnold’s USC Trojans defeated Rosen’s UCLA Bruins last season (Photo credit: Kevin Kuo/USA Today)

 

ECO-ATHLETE ONLY READERS, IT’S SAFE TO REJOIN US HERE.

And that was before I learned about Rosen’s eco-athleticism on Tuesday. In an in-depth interview on espn.com with Sam Alipour (it’s well worth reading), Rosen took on the personality issues that have dogged him, and showed himself to be a curious, insightful 21 year-old. And he also discussed climate change when discussing which causes he will champion as a pro:

I think it’ll evolve, but one cause I’ll champion is the environment. It touches everything. I mean, the war in Syria started because of the drought and famine that destabilized the country and led the population to revolt against the government. I know global warming is a partisan issue for some stupid reason, but it touches everything.

Rosen is the first athlete I know of who made the link between climate change, the drought in Syria, and, by inference, the resulting refugee crisis. I expect this from Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman but not from a quarterback about to be a first round NFL draft pick.

It shows common sense, the ability to connect dots, and the ability to think. All important, if underrated, qualities for an NFL QB.

So, to New York Jets General Manager Mike Maccagnan, the ultimate decider in the draft room, bring eco-athlete Josh Rosen to Gang Green.

Unless, of course, Sam Darnold is available. Then all bets are off.

 

* The Jets had an additional second round pick in the 2018 draft due to a prior trade with the Seattle Seahawks
^ DEFCON1 is the most severe level of readiness of the U.S. military, on a 1 to 5 scale

 


 

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