Dave Heller relishes the chance to stand at the end of a makeshift ramp and greet fans as they enter Modern Woodmen Park this weekend.
Inside, Jacqueline Holm looks forward to the sights and sounds of a Quad-Cities River Bandits game actually taking place on the team’s home field.
"The things I’m looking forward to are the simple things, families coming out and having a good time at the ballpark, just being able to host games and get into the routine of the season," Holm said.
Things have been far from routine so far in 2019 for the 12th-year owner of the Midwest League franchise and the River Bandits’ first-year general manager.
Mississippi River flooding and flood-related issues have allowed Quad-Cities to play just three games at its home stadium, and by the time the River Bandits do return home Friday to open a seven-game homestand, the team will have played 40 of its first 43 games in other venues.
Heller understood when he purchased the team that the neighboring river could be a nuisance at times, but record flooding and the unexpected decision of the Canadian Pacific Railroad to raise its tracks adjacent to the stadium have combined to complicate matters.
"When you have a ballpark that sits by a river, it comes with a price," Heller said. "It has been really challenging, much more so than I could have envisioned, and financially, it has been crushing. You can’t prepare for something like this."
Holm, promoted into her current role when Andrew Chesser left the organization last fall, said she has learned to take things as they come.
"Expect the unexpected," she said. "We’ve been dealing with things one day at a time and making the best of what we’ve had to deal with. That’s really all you can do."
Quad-Cities has had access to its home stadium for three of the 18 games it was scheduled to host as part of its 70-game home schedule this season.
Nine games were lost because of access issues created by the railroad work, preventing the installation of a temporary bridge used during previous flooding, and record flood levels kept the River Bandits out of the facility for six games earlier this month.
The front-office staff has had to move its offices to temporary quarters twice but is now back at Modern Woodmen Park, where tickets windows are open during regular business hours and the team has resumed normal operations.
"The flood panels are still up, and will be for a little while longer, but the path is high and dry and we’re open for business," Holm said. "People have been finding us this week, and with seven straight home games starting Friday, we’re hoping people will come out and watch a team that has been playing great baseball."
Quad-Cities, which leads the Midwest League Western Division, played its way to 15 games over .500 for the first time this season earlier this week and is currently 28-14.
Unlike during the last significant in-season flood the River Bandits dealt with in 2001 under previous ownership, Heller has not laid off any of the team’s full-time employees.
"We’ve kept everybody on and they have received paychecks as scheduled," Heller said. "That hasn’t been the easiest thing to do, but it has been the right thing to do. We’re about treating people the right way here, and despite the challenges we’ve faced, that hasn’t changed."
Game-day and event-day staff has been impacted with fewer events to work, among the reasons Holm welcomes the return of some sense of normalcy as the summer approaches.
"The majority of our promotions and bigger nights are always in the summer, and we still have them to look forward to," Holm said. "We’ve been able to reschedule a number of our groups, and we’re ready for games to resume again, more than ready."
Holm and Heller said the support of the community, the city of Davenport, the team’s business partners, other Midwest League clubs and the River Bandits’ major-league parent club, the Houston Astros, have made a difference in recent weeks.
The strength of the team’s community partnerships have been tested during the opening weeks of the season, and Holm has found the support to be strong.
"We have a good organization, a good staff, and they’ve helped us continue to work and connect with the community," Holm said. "This hasn’t been easy for a lot of businesses and organizations, and we’re here for each other."
Heller has been encouraged by the cooperative spirit he has seen as not only the River Bandits, but other downtown Davenport businesses clean up and work to rebuild.
"We’ve seen what we already knew, that the people of the Quad-Cities love the River Bandits," Heller said. "We appreciate the support that we have received from a lot of people in a lot of areas. It has kept us going, looking forward to welcoming fans back to Modern Woodmen Park."
He expects to be able to do just that beginning Friday night.
Onward, upward: Bryan Abreu went 4-1 with a 1.64 ERA last season over 10 outings for Quad-Cities and has continued to progress in the Astros’ system.
Abreu was named Monday as the Texas League pitcher of the week after pitching five innings of hitless baseball in an outing against Frisco.
Midwest’s best: Cedar Rapids’ Andrew Cabezas is this week’s Midwest League pitcher of the week following his work against the River Bandits last week.
Cabezas allowed one hit over seven shutout innings against Quad-Cities, striking out nine batters in the Kernels’ 1-0 win.
Lake County’s Will Benson earned player of the week honors after hitting .391 for the week.
LumberKings host camp: Clinton will hold its 22nd annual youth baseball clinic on Saturday, June. 1.
Players between the ages of 6-18 will have a chance to learn skills from LumberKings players and coaches during the camp which runs from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at LumberKings Stadium.
The cost is $20 in advance or $25 on the day of the camp and includes the clinic, lunch and a ticket to that night’s Clinton game against Kane County. A link to a registration form can be found at lumberkings.com or can be obtained by calling the LumberKings office at 563-242-0727.
River Bandits this week
At Kane County: Today, 6:30 p.m.
The Cougars’ Jose Herrera and Buddy Kennedy are hitting .314 and .333, respectively, in the last 10 games.
Wisconsin: Friday-Saturday, 6:35 p.m.; Sunday, 1:15 p.m.; Monday, 5:15 p.m.
The Rattlers’ Yeison Coca and Bandits’ Jeremy Pena share third in the league with 13 steals.
Beloit: Tuesday-Wednesday, 6:35 p.m.
Cuban-born OF Lester Madden bats .258 for the Snappers.
LumberKings this week
At Beloit: Today, 6:30 p.m.
Snappers’ top hitter this season, Payton Squier (.294), is currently on injured list.
Burlington: Friday-Saturday, 6:30 p.m.; Sunday-Monday, 2 p.m.
Three Bees, Cristopher Molina, Jose Soriano and Robinson Pina, have ERAs in the MWL top 10.
At Wisconsin: Tuesday-Wednesday, 6:35 p.m.
Wisconsin OF Jesus Lujano has been hitting at a .447 pace in his last 10 games.