Hurricane, flood force Jaguars to make adjustments
Oct. 11, 2017 at 10 p.m.
Updated Oct. 12, 2017 at 11:48 a.m.
The good news for the UHV baseball team is fall ball will begin Monday on schedule.
The bad news is the next few months will be a logistical nightmare.
The damage caused by Hurricane Harvey and the Guadalupe River's flooding of Riverside Park has left Riverside Stadium unplayable and almost totally wiped out Lowe and Rippamonti fields.
Colby VanGundy, director of parks and recreation for the city of Victoria, said the artificial surface at Riverside Stadium, which was installed before last season, must be replaced.
"Hellas Construction came down and looked at the turf," VanGundy said. "The issue we had is the water sat on top of it with the sediment and basically it got down into the fibers of the carpet and hardened, which in their opinion came out as a total loss."
VanGundy said the turf is insured and he plans to seek approval from City Council at its first meeting in November to begin repairs.
"What we take to council," he said, "will basically bring it back to brand new."
In the meantime, the Jaguars will split their workouts between the Victoria East practice field and Game Changer Sports & Training. "It's a disaster, good gracious," said UHV coach Terry Puhl. "There's no easy answer to this. You've got to be able to field ground balls and catch fly balls somewhere."
Puhl said the team will practice fielding and hitting and the pitchers will throw at East before the Titans use the field for their baseball period.
The Jaguars will then move to Game Changer on Salem Road to hit in the batting cages.
Puhl also hopes the players will also be able to condition after finishing hitting drills at Game Changer.
"It's better than nothing," he said. "I'd like to start earlier at East, but our players have classes. We've just got to make the best of the situation."
Puhl is thankful to have escaped any flood damage at his Sugar Land home.
"We had lake water a matter of feet from my house," he said. "Our neighbors had water in their home."
He's also happy most of the players were able to work out at Citizens Healthplex during the offseason.
"We're way ahead of strength issues," he said. "They even gave us a little area where our players could go out and throw and hit off a tee."
UHV will follow the same schedule it has in previous fall drills.
The team will practice four or five days a week the remainder of October and November, except for Thanksgiving week, and finish in the first week of December.
The Jaguars will also play a road and home scrimmage (most likely at East) against Coastal Bend College.
VanGundy said Riverside Stadium suffered only minor structural damage.
He said the winds from Harvey damaged some of the fan blades over the bleachers, and there was a small water leak in the concession stand.
In addition, flood waters got into both dugouts.
"I don't foresee that we're up and running and ready for ball until at least the first week of the new year," VanGundy said. "Maybe late December. It just depends on when they get the crew in. They know our deadline and don't feel like they have any issues meeting it."
UHV will begin the regular season in late January or early February, and VanGundy expects the Jaguars to start on time.
"My goal is to get them open and ready to go before their first games are scheduled," he said.
Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.