IOWA CITY — Ray Hernandez has learned to roll with the flow of the Mississippi River during his initial weeks as the manager of the Quad-Cities River Bandits.
Wednesday, Hernandez found himself dealing with another twist to the flood-altered start to the season for a team with the best record in the Midwest League.
Its next series has been cancelled.
"We’ll do what we can to make the best of it," Hernandez said. "It’s been a chaotic start to things, so we’ll give the guys a well-deserved day off (today), get in a little work and then get ready to go again. A little rest won’t be a bad thing for a few of our guys, either."
Midwest League president Richard Nussbaum announced that an inability to find an alternate site that all parties could agree to has led to the three-game series between the River Bandits and Great Lakes Loons to be scratched from the schedule.
"A lot of people worked very hard to find an acceptable solution, but in this instance we could not reach that point so the games will not be played," Nussbaum said.
Because Quad-Cities and Great Lakes play in opposite divisions and meet for just one three-game series during the regular season, the games will not be made up.
Nussbaum said he made the decision to call off the games after consulting with Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Connor, who became involved once it became apparent talks between the River Bandits, Loons and their parent major-league organizations had reached an impasse.
Great Lakes’ parent club, the Dodgers, nixed the notion of playing the games on the field at Augustana’s Swanson Stadium/Brunner Field, an NCAA Division III facility in Moline.
They reached that conclusion without making a site visit and unaware that the playing surface there — as well as the one at their own Dodger Stadium — was the work of Bush Sports Turf, a Quad-Cities business which also lists the fields at Davenport’s Modern Woodmen Park and Wrigley Field among its projects.
The Astros rejected the idea of playing the games at Great Lakes, a move which would have put the River Bandits on the road for an unscheduled 443-mile road trip on one day’s notice.
"The Dodgers didn’t want to play at Augustana, and we can’t force them to do that. The Astros didn’t want to their players who have been on the road all season for another eight-hour trip, and I certainly respect that," Quad-Cities owner Dave Heller said.
Mississippi River flooding in the vicinity of Modern Woodmen Park has forced the River Bandits to play all but three of their first 15 scheduled home games in other venues.
The team has played home games in other Midwest League facilities in Burlington, Cedar Rapids, Clinton and Peoria and wrapped up a three-game series at the University of Iowa’s Banks Field on Wednesday.
While floodwaters have receded to the point where the River Bandits plan to work out at Modern Woodmen Park this weekend, water in nearby streets and parking lots and clean-up from the record flood precluded games from being played there this week.
The River Bandits were unable to secure an alternate site because of collegiate tournaments and games scheduled for venues where the team has previously played and similar events at other area sites.
As late as midday Wednesday, discussions were being held to shift the games to Principal Park in Des Moines on Thursday and Friday before the Iowa Cubs open a series there Saturday, but an agreement could not be reached.
"Everybody did their best to try to salvage the series, but we couldn’t get everything worked out," Nussbaum said. "I’m amazed that we’ve done as well as we’ve done so far given the circumstances. Cooperation among our clubs and from the University of Iowa for the current series has been invaluable."
Heller said the end result of having to cancel the three-game series between the River Bandits and Loons, teams currently leading their divisions, was "disappointing and very frustrating."
Combined with a scheduled league day off on Sunday, the situation leaves Quad-Cities with a four-day break in its schedule.
Hernandez plans to hold a couple of workouts prior to the River Bandits’ next scheduled game, a doubleheader on Monday at Cedar Rapids.
Those games open what was originally scheduled to be the longest road trip of the season for Quad-Cities, a 12-game trip over 11 days.
The River Bandits next scheduled game at Modern Woodmen Park is May 24, when Quad-Cities opens a seven-day homestand with a four-game series against Wisconsin.
"We’re all looking forward to that day," Heller said.