By J.J. Cooper
August 16, 2004
Hurricane Charley came ashore within 45 miles of the Sarasota Red Sox and Fort Myers Twins ballparks, but both came through the storm relatively unscathed. But over on Florida’s east coast, the Daytona Cubs’ Jackie Robinson Stadium was not as fortunate.
Winds from the hurricane ripped up several of the team’s advertising billboards in the outfield, and destroyed a batting cage, blew away the batting eye in center field and knocked down a light tower that crashed onto the field.
The club is busy trying to repair the damage, but night games are already out for the foreseeable future, and it’s still possible that the club will have to move some more of its home games to other sites.
Brevard County’s Space Coast Stadium also suffered lesser damage, as the Manatees’ manual scoreboard was damaged, but the stadium was ready to go just a day after the hurricane. It didn’t really matter, as additional rain pelted the stadium and postponed Saturday’s game.
While Port Charlotte took the brunt of the story on Florida’s west coast, the eye of the storm also passed near Daytona, which is why Jackie Robinson Stadium received such a thrashing.
The park didn’t have power for most of the weekend. When it did return, the club quickly went to work cleaning up the damage and found plenty to do. The team moved a pair of doubleheaders on Monday and Tuesday to Jupiter’s Roger Dean Stadium, and has made plans to play home games Wednesday and Thursday in Vero Beach if Jackie Robinson Stadium is not ready.
Officials were inspecting the stadium Monday afternoon for structural damage. If no damage is found, the Cubs have made plans to play day games to finish out their schedule. If the park has structural damage, the team is talking about moving games to Stetson University in Deland, Fla.
Fort Myers’ Hammond Stadium made it through the hurricane in good shape, but the area suffered plenty of storm damage, so the park is being used as a staging area and shelter for relief workers. The club’s schedule helps out, with no home games on the slate until Aug. 27.
Brevard County’s Space Coast Stadium came through the hurricane in relatively good shape. Winds damaged the scoreboard, which was quickly repaired. The club had to clean up some broken glass, but the stadium made it through the winds and rain with little other damage.
“I think in the grand scheme of things we were very fortunate,” Brevard County general manager Andy Dunn said.
Once the hurricane damage is cleaned up, the Florida State League will still have the problem of losing a number of games. The FSL had a number of games in early August rained out, which means that with just three weeks left in the season, this past weekend’s postponements are turning into cancellations in many cases. All seven scheduled games on Friday and six of the eight games on Saturday were called because of the storm and additional rain.
“The good thing is that we were all playing in our own divisions,” FSL president Chuck Murphy said. “We will be able to make some of these up. But we have a bunch of doubleheaders already lined up toward the end of August, so we may lose some games.”
Professional Baseball Agreement rules allow three doubleheaders in a week and no more than two doubleheaders in a row.
An official with the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League said the league should be able to start returning to normal today. Five of the six scheduled games were postponed on Friday, and five of seven Saturday games were postponed as well. Sunday was a scheduled off day.