Rain Delay for the Ages

By: Kevin Shive

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hC2H0YHPcx0

The day was July 19, 2006. It was two days until my birthday, and as was tradition, I was going to a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game for my special day. Generally I go to five or more games in any given season. Little did I know that this game would stick out above the rest in my memory, but not for any baseball related reasons.

The day started out like any other summer day would, sunny and rather warm. The temperature popped into the mid 90’s, the humidity was high, and people were struggling just to stay cool. Later on that evening it would be hard to believe that we were dripping sweat just hours before. As I recall there was not a drop of rain in the forecast, or none that I remember seeing. My mom is always one to be prepared when we go to baseball games, and for this particular occasion she did not even pack an umbrella.

We arrived considerably early to the game, as it was an autograph night, and we did not want to miss out on the opportunity. Upon arrival, the cautionary measures for the intense St. Louis heat were obvious around us. Numerous concession stands were set up, passing out free bottled water, and a St. Louis County fire truck was parked right outside Busch Stadium, spraying water up into the air like a sprinkler, in order to help keep people cool. Not in any mood to soak our clothes, we passed up this opportunity and made our way toward the gates. Our shower would come later on in the evening, however.

The crowd was filing in and taking their seats, ready for baseball, when the storm started to roll in to St. Louis. This storm caught everyone by complete surprise, including the Cardinals ground crew, who had to scurry to roll out the big gray tarp and cover the field. We knew something was wrong when the normally prepared grounds crew came sprinting at full speed out onto the field. My disappointment of seeing them come out for the tarp was replaced by the fear I felt when I looked off towards the western sky.

I was pretty sure the sky was a beautiful shade of dark blue when we arrived at Busch. Now the sky was a dark shade of black. On top of the intimidating black sky, the wind started to swirl around the stadium. Hot dog wrappers, drink carriers, and anything else not being held down started to blow around the stadium. The grounds crew began working on the tarp, and the fans went rushing towards shelter. There was no rain yet, but there was no doubt that a storm was imminent. The wind was blowing so hard that the grounds crew was struggling to keep the giant tarp from floating away in the wind. After a great struggle, the crew finally wrestled the tarp down over the baseball diamond. In order to keep the tarp anchored down, the crew drove their diamond vehicles out onto it.

Shortly after we retreated to a sheltered area behind our seats, the rain began to fall. The rain came down at a fast and furious pace, unlike any I had seen before. Combined with the fierce wind, it appeared to be raining sideways. Sheet upon sheet of drenching rain fell down upon St. Louis, and streaks of lightning lit up the night sky. Visibility was greatly reduced as the rain came pouring down on the stadium. The heat was no longer a factor, as the temperature had dropped around 15 degrees. The loyal St. Louis fans were no longer concerned about the game to be played, but rather about the vicious storm unfolding right before them.

The storm carried on like this for well over an hour. Lightning, thunder, and extremely heavy rain continued to rule the evening. At this point, baseball seemed completely out of the question. We were now more worried about our own well being than the game we paid to see. Then, finally, the radar showed a little glint of hope. The dark red patch, indicating heavy rain, that had covered St. Louis was moving through, followed by areas of clearing. The storm had finally reached its end, but not without leaving its mark of devastation.

The aftermath of the storm revealed puddles of water gathered on the tarp, and on the warning track in the outfield. Much to our surprise, the grounds crew removed the tarp, and began working on getting the field ready for play. There was going to be a ball game played after all. The crowd size was still rather large, even after a two hour rain delay. This was mainly because nobody dared to leave the stadium once the heavy hitting storm stepped up to the plate. After much preparatory work on the soaked field, the game was started. Game time wound up being 9:30, rather than the originally planned 7:15. The game would be worth the wait, as the hometown Cardinals took it to the Atlanta Braves, and won by a large margin. It was a late night for all involved, but luckily everyone stayed safe from the dangerous storm, and witnessed one of the 83 Cardinal victories that year, of what was to be a championship season for the Redbirds. It was a memorable night of a magical 2006 season.

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