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Major League Flooding at Harlem Ballfield Keeps Little League Out of Game

By Gustavo Solis | November 18, 2015 4:01pm
 Parents have to show up two hours before the game to clear the water every time it rains at Jackie Robinson Park.
Flooding at Jackie Robinson Park
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HARLEM — Flooding is so bad on the ball field in Jackie Robinson Park that the coaches have given it names.

“We call them the great lakes,” said Dwight Raiford, who co-founded Harlem Little League with his wife Iris in 1989. “That one by the dugout is Lake Superior, the one by the shed is Lake Ontario, and the one over there is Lake Eerie.”

Every time it rains, Raiford said, the fields are unusable because of the puddles.

The group is now trying to raise $75,000 to level the field and replace the drains.

But the community isn't waiting for the money to come in.

Kim Martin-Shah, a mother of two little leaguers and wife of a coach, began organizing pre-game cleanup sessions three years ago after her 5-year-old's tee-ball game was called off due to flooding.

It was a beautiful Saturday and after the game was canceled they drove up to Westchester. On their drive up the West Side Highway, her son could see kids playing baseball along Riverside Park, she said.

“He said, ‘How come they get to play and we don’t get to play?’” Martin-Shah said. “I told him it’s not going to happen again.”

In order to play their Saturday morning games, parents show up at 7 a.m. with shovels and dirt to clear the mud and get the field ready for the first pitch at 9 a.m.

Harlem Little League is working with the Parks Department to repair the field. It will repair a broken water fountain and replace some of the drainage pipes, Raiford said.

The Parks Department did not immediately respond to questions about its work in Jackie Robinson Park.

Money that Harlem Little League raises — they’ve currently raise $3,000 out of their $75,000 goal — will go toward resurfacing and leveling the fields, replacing the dugouts and maintaining the area.

They want to turn Jackie Robinson Park into an area that fits with their famed namesake, Raiford said.

“That name deserves a first class field,” he said.