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Glenn Pursley, Published June 26 2013

Flooding threatens summer slate at Jack Williams Stadium

FARGO – Residents of Fargo-Moorhead are used to flooding. A nearly annual occurrence, many have learned to work around it.

And the same goes for Jack Williams Stadium personnel.

The players, coaches and volunteers who call Jack Williams their home have dealt with increasingly harsh weather over the years to keep the kids on the field.

“It’s been a struggle dealing with the rain the last five years,” said Jim Pettersen, vice chairman of the American Legion baseball board of directors. “But we’re pretty positive. There has never been a year without baseball at Jack Williams Stadium.”

Late Tuesday night, severe thunderstorms developed and carried into the morning hours on Wednesday to dump nearly five inches of rain around the Fargo-Moorhead area and put Fargo under a flood watch until 11:30 a.m. today.

With standing water visible in center field from home plate, much work needs to be done in order to prep the field for upcoming summer tournaments.

Jack Williams is scheduled to host the Central Plains American Legion Regional tournament on Aug. 8. If flood waters do reach the field, the ability to host the tournament could be in jeopardy. But Pettersen doesn’t picture that being the case.

“This is just a minor setback,” Pettersen said. “I believe come August, we’ll be here and this will all just be a memory. The (Central Plains) tournament is a big one, and we’re excited for the summer.”

Starting on Friday, Jack Williams will host the 41st Annual Fargo-Moorhead Invitational. If the field is unplayable, all games will be held at Matson Field in Moorhead.

It has been a community effort so far to ensure both tournaments take place at Jack Williams and that baseball is played throughout the summer.

The grounds crew has dedicated many hours and has been able to manage all of the heavy rain thus far, but keeping the flood waters off the field is a different story.

To help the cause, the city of Fargo has built dikes to 31 feet along the left-field fence to keep the Red River at bay.

“The city told us they’ll do everything they can and have been very cooperative,” Pettersen said. “We’ve only missed two days since June, and that’s a tribute to the coaches and kids who come down and get things done. Baseball guys are willing to put the time in to get their field ready.”

This year isn’t the only year that Jack Williams has faced a difficult road in front of it. The worst Pettersen can remember happened just four years ago.

Back in 2009, the Red River crested just shy of 41 feet and flooded many properties along the river. Jack Williams was no exception.

The flood left standing water in the ballpark, resulting in the entire field needing to be redone.

Forum reporter Glenn Pursley can be reached at (701) 241-5549