Sports fans rocked by East Coast quake - NBC Sports

Sports fans rocked by East Coast quake
5.8 magnitude earthquake centered northwest of Richmond, Va.
August 23, 2011, 6:08 pm

Cleveland Indians fans wondered if a special effects explosion had gone off at a nearby movie shoot. Spectators at a tennis tournament in Connecticut felt as though a truck had smashed into the stadium. Golfer Brendan Steele thought he was getting shaky over his putts.

East Coast sports fans were rocked by some unexpected excitement Tuesday when a 5.8-magnitude earthquake centered in Virginia sent tremors from South Carolina to New England.

Play was stopped and the venue evacuated at the New Haven Open. The Washington Nationals delayed opening the gates before their matchup with Arizona to check the stadium for damage.

Reporters noticed, but the game went on as if nothing had happened in Cleveland, where the Indians beat the Mariners, and at the Little League World Series.

The press box shook for about 30 seconds at Progressive Field, where the Hammond family was celebrating son Liam's 10th birthday with his first Indians game - one he'll never forget.

"I thought it was the wind," said Tim Hammond, Liam's dad. "I know the stadium is made to move, but I didn't know what was moving it. I was thinking maybe they blew something up on that movie set."

Filming for "The Avengers" is taking place near the ballpark.

"A lot of people got up and were like, 'We're out of here,'" Hammond said.

At the tennis tournament on Yale's campus, 71-year-old John Ricci's first thought was of the stage collapse at a concert in Indianapolis earlier this month.

"We didn't know it was an earthquake - we just figured the stands were collapsing," he said.

The stadium was evacuated during the third game of a match between Jelena Jankovic and Elena Vesnina. Spectators felt three waves of shaking, as water bottles sloshed back and forth.

Vesnina was leading 2-0 and about to serve, facing two break points. Jankovic looked up in amazement as spectators rushed from their seats. Seconds later, the chair umpire suspended play.

New Haven firefighters carrying axes walked in and out of the stadium to the applause of fans waiting outside the main court. The fire marshal later deemed the structure sound and let fans back in more than two hours after the tremors hit.

Play resumed at 4:15 p.m. when chair umpire Sandie French said, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is the resumption of play of a match suspended because of an earthquake." Fans in the stands chuckled, and Vesnina prepared to serve.

New York Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum was sitting at his desk when the team's training facility in Florham Park, N.J., shook for a few seconds.

"Usually when the building shakes, Rex is laughing, so that was my first instinct," Tannenbaum joked later.

But it wasn't guffawing from the Jets' boisterous coach, Rex Ryan. When Tannenbaum peered out into the hallway, about 50 people were standing there, "with everyone kind of looking at each other like, 'Was that really an earthquake?'"

In South Williamsport, Pa., Lamade Stadium briefly rattled during the LLWS consolation game between Rotterdam, Netherlands, and Cumberland, R.I. Players from Cumberland gasped when told in an interview with reporters after their 8-7 win that there was an earthquake.

Outfielder Colin Cannata said he only learned of the quake after reading a news scroll on television.

"It started all the way in south Virginia," James Belisle whispered to teammate Christopher Wright.

At home before the Yankees played Oakland, Nick Swisher said he was "wondering why things were moving in my living room" on the 21st floor. His thought: "Hey, I'm getting down on the ground." Once he reached the street, Swisher ran into teammate and neighbor Dave Robertson.

At The Barclays golf tournament in Edison, N.J., Trevor Immelman "felt like the putting green was on jelly."

Steele, who grew up in Idyllwild, Calif., has been through bigger earthquakes.

"But this is the first time I ever felt one on a golf course," he said.

Chad Campbell was in the clubhouse, and it felt like being on water.

"That was my first one," the Texas native said. "Didn't think it would be in New Jersey."

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