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CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids Jefferson baseball field suffered severe damage from severe storms that rolled through Eastern Iowa Monday night.
The J-Hawks arrived at their home diamond at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday to deal with the effects of the reason they were chased from it with less than an inning remaining in its doubleheader with Cedar Rapids Xavier.
High winds and rain blew the right-field fence down, snapped a pole and shattered the glass from its bank of lights just beyond third base and destroyed other equipment. Second-year Jefferson Coach Kyle Rodenkirk met Athletics Director Chris Deam at the field at 7 a.m. Tuesday to assess the damage, canceling Tuesday night’s contest against Des Moines East.
“It was pretty tough,” Rodenkirk said. “You spend how many hours here as a coach trying to make it look good and the kids worked hard getting it ready and we’re back to square one.”
Rodenkirk had an extensive list of issues caused by weather. Debris littered the field, including a cinder block Rodenkirk could not identify. Two other light poles were twisted and cracked, lights were busted and turn the opposite direction, signs ruined, bleachers were turned and carried more than five feet and the poles and nets were ruined in the batting cages.
A portable batting cage that sat behind the bullpen mound down the right field line was mangled and blown over the outfield fence, landing in a parking lot across Rockford Road. Only half was recovered, according to Rodenkirk.
“These types of things are terrible, but we have such a great community,” Rodenkirk said. “Everyone pitches in. All I did was send out a tweet and the guys all showed up.”
Roddenkirk said he was glad to see his players willing to work on “their” field. The J-Hawks banded together, starting repairs. The events could unite and bring the team and community closer together.
“It’s devastating seeing our wall down and losing a lot of stuff,” Eivins said. “It’s a bad thing right now. As we pick everything up, it could make us better as a team and be positive for the J-Hawk baseball organization.”
A bad situation could have been much worse for Jefferson and Xavier had it not been for actions of Deam, umpires and coaches. Deam monitored weather conditions from the time the opener’s start was delayed due to lightning.
“You have to think about getting the kids and the opposing team home safe,” Deam said. “Officials were actively involved, too. You have to take in all those things at the time.”
Xavier expanded its lead from two to six runs in the top of the seventh with two outs. Deam moved on to the field about 9:30 p.m., conferring with umpires and the game was called. Less than 50 minutes later the storms were over SW Cedar Rapids, which lost power in some neighborhoods at 10:20 p.m.
“That was a weird night,” Eivins said. “The night seemed perfect and all of a sudden it got canceled. We didn’t know what was going on. It’s a good thing we got out quickly.”
The decisive action may have prevented problems as players may have still been at the diamond or traveling home. It sunk in as Deam witnessed strong winds, heavy rain and lightning blocks away on his way home. Local sirens blared as Rodenkirk and Eivins reached their respective homes.
“It was the best move,” Rodenkirk said. “There is no win, game or trophy worth more than saving somebody’s life.”
Jefferson will pick up the pieces and look for another place to play games. Rodenkirk noted Kirkwood Community College and Daniels Park, home to Coe College, are possibility for home games. Deam did not rule out the baseball diamond could be used for day games. The concept of home games away from home is hard to imagine.
“It will be different, for sure,” Eivins said. “We’ll still do well, but it won’t be the same.”
The J-Hawks (11-5) will return to action Wednesday. They will have to move on and rebound quickly.
“We have to keep these guys ready to go,” Rodenkirk said. “We have a game against Prairie.”
Deam said he could not estimate the cost of damages, but said the light poles alone may cost more than $10,000. District representatives visited the field and took pictures. The next move is to consult and submit claims to insurance.
Deam provided some perspective, comparing the situation to the nearby affected homes.
“Those guys have holes in their roofs,” said Deam, whose Jefferson softball team took time away from practice to help the school’s neighbors. “We’ll make the most of it. It’s just a game field. They are the more important thing.”
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