Brandywine Babe Ruth League also victims of flood
NILES, Mich. -- The Brandywine Cal Ripken Babe Ruth League in Niles is down two fields and a recently-renovated concession stand after February’s flood.
“In here, there’s a drain on the floor and when the river went up, it pushed all the muck and everything up through the drain,” said Kerry Whitman, the head of concessions and grandmother to three players in the league. “And then because there was no place for the water to go, it just stayed in here.”
Pictures taken in the days after last month’s flood show two baseball fields and the concession stand – which sit just opposite of downtown Niles across the St. Joseph River – drowning in floodwater.
Nearly three feet of it ruined the newly-renovated concession stand. It tipped over an industrial freezer like a toy and left everything from the floor to a can opener caked in mud, among other things.
“Our worry is that we’re not going to have this park available, which is going to cut down on games for the kids and not being able to play,” Whitman said.
The two baseball fields, which sit next to the Niles FOP lodge, became a new home for Brandywine’s Babe Ruth League in 2016. It added on to the one diamond the team already uses at nearby Fireman’s Park.
“When all the water rushed back out it took all of our field dirt with it,” said Hollie Krueger, the league’s secretary and mom to a player. “So, it’s hard to tell with the snow, but without the snow you can see that we’ve sunk down at least about three inches or so.”
Krueger said one ton of specialized baseball dirt costs $150.
Brandywine’s league needs about 25 tons to refill both fields, meaning almost $4,000.
“We’re a new board, everyone’s got new positions this year,” Krueger said. “So in the process of trying to learn how to keep this league going and what’s best for this league, we got slammed with this. And now we have to figure out how to fix it.”
Instead of counting profits in her renovated concession stand, Whitman is now counting up costs to replace everything.
The two women hope the community can help bring the ballpark back to life so the dugouts can be full again.
“It’s for the kids. I mean, that’s all we’ve got. It’s for the kids,” Krueger said. “I realize there’s a lot of damage around town, but this one’s for the kids.”
Update: On Tuesday, March 27, the league received a $3,000 donation from the Buchanan Lodge #68 Free & Accepted Masons to help fund flood repairs. Video below shows the check presentation.
The league held tryouts and its draft last weekend, indoors, for the 2018 season.
Now that that’s over, the board is focusing on rebuilding.
The park is not covered by flood insurance, so the over $10,000 needed to fix everything has to come from somewhere else.
Opening day is April 28. Whitman and Krueger said if the two fields aren’t back open, they’ll have to manage by cramming all the games onto the field at Fireman’s Park.
If you’re interested in helping or donating to the league, you can contact them through their Facebook page or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also mail any donations to PO Box 532, Niles, MI 49120.