A Flooded Stadium Went Viral, but the Somerset Patriots Didn’t Quit


Flood mitigation efforts had long been made in and around the stadium. After Hurricane Floyd devastated neighboring Bound Brook’s downtown in 1999, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built infrastructure — detention reservoirs, levees and pumping stations — to prevent similar catastrophic flooding.

But those plans faltered around 9:30 p.m. on Sept. 1. In Bound Brook, a floodgate couldn’t open because New Jersey Transit train 5451 had stalled on its track. In Bridgewater, Kevin Finnegan, an employee who works maintenance at the stadium, was home with his parents when one of the walls in the family’s basement gave way to the storm surge. The water rose to the steps of the second floor, and the family lost both of their vehicles. Their house is uninhabitable.

“It’s insane how destructive it was,” Iwicki said.


Relief followed. Kevin Reese, the player development director for the Yankees, and Nick Avanzato, the franchise’s minor league operations manager, flew up from Tampa, Fla. to walk players and staff through insurance claims, arrange for rental cars and provide financial assistance. A GoFundMe page was started for the Finnegans, and Chuck Hodgdon, owner of Stadium Graphics, drove down from New Hampshire to help piece the outfield wall back together. Interns and executives worked alongside caterers and the construction crew that had already been on site doing renovations.

Everything was power washed, including the grass to ensure mud did not suffocate it. Each seat was hosed down, then hand washed and hosed down a second time. Purner and his crew triple-checked the field to make sure there were no soft spots. One of the last steps was buying new resin bags, which pitchers are allowed to use during games for better grip on sweaty nights, because the regulars were all soaked. Before first pitch on Friday — nine nights after Ida’s visit — Purner returned to his typical laments.


“Some of my mow lines were a little crooked,” he said.

By then, there were few signs that any flooding had occurred, and it was not until the late innings that a musty odor wafted through the stands after the wind changed directions. Before the ninth inning, the public address announcer noted that there would be no fireworks after the game because the launch area was inaccessible in the wake of the storm. Finally, in the bottom of the 12th inning, outfielder Michael Beltre sliced a double the opposite way to left-center field to drive in the winning run, and his Patriots teammates sprinted from the home dugout to mob him near second base. Three players carried separate coolers and doused Beltre, and the field, with ice water.

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