Rain Wrecks Beast of the East Plans

MOUNDSVILLE – A flash flood that ran through the city Monday not only wreaked havoc on the community, but also the Beast of the East baseball tournament.

All five Moundsville-based fields that were scheduled to host Beast tournament games have been deemed unusable by the Marshall County Health Department. This decision left tournament Director Bo McConaughey with 24 teams having no place to play in the Beast, which runs from today through Sunday at various fields throughout the Ohio Valley.

“We had to make a decision (Tuesday) because we didn’t want (teams) to come here from any distance and tell them ‘hey, you’re not playing.’ Most of them were pretty good about it – some of them were angry,” said McConaughey, who was up until 1 a.m. Wednesday calling teams to inform them of the news.

McConaughey said he got a call Tuesday afternoon informing him that the Moundsville fields could not be used, but was not told exactly why. He later learned of the health hazards posed by the field conditions.

As it turns out, those hazards were raw sewage brought in by Monday’s heavy rain, as well as copperhead snakes that had taken over the field.

“We can do a lot of things, but we can’t control the weather and we can’t control the health department,” McConaughey said. “They said they had copperheads down there. I know I wouldn’t have gone out. I’m not a snake guy.”

McConaughey tried to accommodate the teams that did not have a field to play on by moving the games to different locations, but it was easier said than done.

“We tried to move it to other fields, but we didn’t have anyone to run those fields. We couldn’t ask the Moundsville people to go run a field, wherever we got a field, for nothing. At least down there, they were going make money. There were some alternatives, but nothing that was going to work out.”

According to McConaughey, the Beast will refund all 24 dislocated teams in full by sending out checks next week.

The tournament director also noted that nothing this severe has ever happened before in the Beast’s 25 year history.

“One year, we had rain on Thursday and Friday. We lost both days, but we played Saturday and Sunday. We’ve never had anything like this where a flash flood comes up and the field is condemned,” McConaughey said.

“We dealt with it and we have to live with the consequences. I hope we don’t get anymore rain,” he added.

While the financial impact on the tournament itself will be undoubtedly felt, so too will the impact on the local economy.

Every year, business owners and hotel managers are quick to point out the influx of money and people into their respective locations. However, with 24 less teams slated to take the field – none of which will do so in Moundsville – the local economy saw an immediate impact within hours of the announcement.

“We did lose between 15 and 20 rooms,” said Joni Grubler, manager of the recently opened Sleep Inn in Moundsville.

Grubler said because the hotel did not officially open until June 6, they did not receive as many reservations as expected, as most teams and families had already booked reservations. However, she said one full team was slated to stay at the hotel and now will not, resulting in the lost rooms.

At Grand Vue Park, Manager Craig White said the park was not affected by the cancellations, as no teams had booked cabins for the tournament. He said one family was staying at the park this weekend, but their son was playing games an hour away.

While hotels and restaurants are sure to take a hit without the games this weekend, Marshall County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dave Knuth said shopping and tourism are not typically affected by the tournament.

“The kids and families are not really interested in visiting other locations,” he said. “They’re either playing ball, eating or resting.”

Knuth said Wednesday afternoon he had not heard from any business owners who were concerned with the cancellations. However, he was quick to add that the impact cannot be understated.

“I think the eateries and hotels will notice a dramatic impact,” he said, adding meals, lodging, gasoline and other items add up.

Marshall County Bureau Chief J.W. Johnson Jr. contributed to this report.