Minor league grounds crew staffers injured by runaway tarp

Mark Townsend

Severe thunderstorms producing heavy rains and 70-80 mph winds rumbled through parts of the midwest on Monday night into early Tuesday morning. The storms ultimately led to the postponement of Monday's scheduled game between the Los Angeles Angels and Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, but it turns out it wasn't just MLB that was affected by Mother Nature's wrath.

Earlier in the day, the Class A Cedar Rapids Kernels (Minnesota Twins affiliate) of the Midwest League were in action against the Clinton Lumberkings (Seattle Mariners affiliate) when the severe weather approached quickly and forced play to be halted.

Unfortunately, the call wasn't made quickly enough because by the time the grounds crew attempted to cover the field, conditions were already dangerous. The whipping winds led to complications and at least four members of the grounds crew — which includes general manager Doug Nelson — suffered injuries when the tarp broke loose and the plastic roller barreled over top of them.

From KCRG.com: 

“We heard the warning and that the storm was going to be here at 3:07,” Nelson said. “So we went out to talk to the umpires. When they heard it was a warning, it was a no-brainer, let’s pull everybody off the field. This was about 2:45, so we thought we had at least 10 minutes, which is more than enough time to get the tarp on. But we didn’t have 10 minutes. It came up on us much faster.”

One wind gust prevented the full unrolling, then another blew the tarp into the air, knocking people to the ground and the tarp over them. 

Also in the middle of the chaos was head groundskeeper Jesse Roeder.

“I was in the middle, Doug was right next to me,” Roeder said. “At first, the wind kind of stopped the tarp as we were starting to pull it. We got it going again, but it must have picked up behind us.

“All I remember is it came up from behind me, smacked me in the head and knocked me and other people down. People were trying to crawl out from underneath it, we had some of my guys trying to get people out from underneath it. Then it starts pouring rain.”

Nelson and Roeder were among the lucky ones to avoid injury, though Nelson's smashed glasses were later discovered in center field. Assistant general manager Scott Wilson reportedly dislocated his left shoulder. It's also reported that three members of the crew suffered concussions.

That's a pretty scary injury toll, though obviously things could have been a lot worse based on the video and the descriptions of those directly involved. The Veterans Memorial Stadium grounds crew includes front office staff, regular crew members, and nightly volunteers. It was not immediately revealed which category any of the three who sustained concussions belonged in. 

The game was ultimately suspended after the stadium lost power and recovery of the tarp was deemed impossible. The game will be finished on July 11, weather permitting. 

Score one for Mother Nature on Monday. But don't worry, the Cedar Rapids' grounds crew will be back at full strengh soon. One bad day at the yard won't keep them down.  

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!