Monday, July 7, 2008

Too much water for Waterloo



WATERLOO – Waterloo third base coach Jim Setz answered a question with a question of his own.

“Ever see the movie Evan Almighty?” asked Setz referencing the movie about a man on a Noah’s ark-like quest when asked about what the town’s Fireman’s Park looked like after the recent flooding. “The boat he built, and that flood came out, that dam broke. That's about the way it looked.”

In about a week’s time from June 7 to June 13, southern Wisconsin was hit with as much as 16 inches of rainfall in certain areas. Subsequent flooding closed major highways, damaged houses, and even caused Lake Delton near Wisconsin Dells to empty when a dam was breached. Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle declared a state of emergency in 30 Wisconsin counties. And, in addition, President George Bush declared twelve counties as federal disaster areas making them eligible for aid from FEMA.

As far as sports goes, the ball field at Waterloo was just about as hard hit as any in the state. Known for the smiles that homeruns hit to left field created when they would splashdown in the Maunesha River, that same river created despair when it overflowed and completely covered the playing field due to the June rains.

“There wasn't a ball diamond down here,” said Waterloo manager Marc Burbach. “The water was all the way back up to the backstop. The only thing you could see on the whole pitcher's mound was the rubber. Everything else looked like a pond or a lake.”

The scene produced jaw dropping awe, and not in a good sense. In one area the park sat under three and a half feet of water. The outfield fence collapsed under too much pressure pressure. Picnic tables were carried out all the way to scoreboard in centerfield. The nearly 100 year old carousel, one of only 150 like it in the entire United States, is out of commission after being swamped with water.

“I was sitting on our home team bench, I was in tears,” said Craig Setz, Waterloo’s business manager for its Home Talent League team. “I just couldn't believe it.”

Determined to play baseball on the field by the Fourth of July, the entire community got behind the project to spruce up the park. What they accomplished was nothing short of remarkable.

A tile ditch and clear stone were laid in an area created by a natural swale just beyond the left field foul line to help direct drainage out to the river. And that was just the first step in a much longer process.

Exactly six days before July fourth, community members came to the park for a work bee on a Saturday that took all day long. About 120 people showed up in all and got down to work.

Garbage and debris that was littered all over the field was picked up. Playground equipment was bleached. The old chain link fence was disposed of and a temporary orange snow fence was erected. Three dump truck loads of sand that had been deposited in left field from the river were hauled away. The team cut and re-edged the infield. And the field was rolled to form a level playing surface.

“Without all the help from the people and the town, it wouldn't have happened,” said Bob Krieg, a member of the Park’s board.

The result wasn’t perfect. The field was still very damp, muddy and mushy. Outfielders’ cleats were clogged with dirt upon returning to the dugout. But at least it was safe.

Maybe most importantly, the town’s Fourth of July Festival went on as planned. Complete with the city band, a dunk tank, arm wrestling contest, musical entertainment, all the food you could eat, the Klements Racing Sausages, fireworks, and – of course – baseball, the event was a success.

“I honestly didn’t think that we’d ever be playing on it again,” said Craig Setz.

Ignore the 15-2 loss at the hands of Marshall. Waterloo has still come a long way.

Next weekend’s Home Talent League road trip: Fort Atkinson at Jefferson for “The Trifecta” before the All-American Challenge pitting the HTL All-Stars versus the U.S Military All-Stars on Sunday July 13 at Warner Park as part of the Northwoods League’s All-Star game in Madison.

Photo credit: Craig Setz & Brian Carriveau

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