CLEARWATER, Fla. – Roman Quinn had only been home a few days. The Phillies’ season had just ended, and the 25-year-old outfielder was happy to be in his recently purchased home in Port St. Joe, a tiny town of 3,500 in the Florida panhandle. It is the place where he grew up and the place where his wife, Jenifer, grew up, too.
“We had just bought the house about a month before,” Quinn said Thursday afternoon, following the Phillies’ final spring-training workout before Friday’s Grapefruit League opener against the Tampa Bay Rays. “We had gotten the floors and a lot of other things redone.”
And, then, a hurricane was headed their way. Its name was Michael, and it would intensify so quickly that it became one of the fiercest storms in U.S. history, reaching 155 miles per hour when it made landfall around 2 p.m. on Oct. 10, about 12 miles northwest of Port St. Joe. Quinn and his father had boarded up the new home the day before. Quinn and his wife, who was six months pregnant, decided they would ride out the storm with their 4-year-old daughter, Londyn.
“We were hearing that the hurricane was going to hit us as maybe a Category 2 or 3, which is what it was initially,” Quinn said. “We were expecting it to slow down as it got closer to us. My wife had family staying in their homes, and we wanted to stay in case they needed some help.”
Quinn’s phone “started blowing up” early on the morning before the hurricane made landfall. It was his brother Rock.
“First, he called me, and then he text[ed] me,” Quinn said. “I’m thinking, ‘What does he want this early in the morning?’ He just kept calling, and I was asleep. I finally answered and said, ‘What’s up man?’ He said, ‘I don’t know if you have any way to get out of there right now, but they’re saying this is going to be a Category 5 hurricane.”
That got Quinn’s attention.
“I shook my wife a little and told her, ‘It’s going to land as a Category 5,” he said.
By then, it was too late to leave. They decided to try to sleep through it instead.
“I felt like we had a pretty sturdy house,” Quinn said. “We had a brick house with a metal roof, so I wasn’t really worried about our house getting too much damage. It’s pretty new, and it’s kind of on a little bit of a hill, so I thought if the water did come, it would wash back down.”
When the Quinns awoke around 3 p.m. they looked out their back door.
“The power was out, and we looked outside on the back porch, and the wind was howling," Quinn said. "The trees were blowing down, and it was raining hard. I had never seen anything like that in my life.”
The storm roared for four more hours.
“When it finished around 7, we walked out in front of the house and, man, our street was a mess,” Quinn said. “Trees were down, power lines were down everywhere. Right across the street from me, a giant oak had landed right on top of someone’s house. We don’t have any trees near our house, thankfully. It was by far the craziest thing I had ever seen in my life.”
The storm’s aftermath was not easy, either, and it’s far from over.
“We will be cleaning up for years,” Quinn said.
Michael was classified as a high-end Category 4 hurricane and just missed being Category 5. At the end of November, it was reported that 43 people had died in Florida.
“My wife’s family lives right on the beach, which was about 10 to 15 minutes away, but we couldn’t get to them the day of the storm,” Quinn said. “The bridges were closed and the [cell phone] towers were down, so we couldn’t talk to them. Man, it was scary. We drove around our little side of town, and I went by my mom’s house to make sure she was all right. She only lives about five minutes away.
“What we were seeing was just devastating. Houses burned down. Roofs were off homes and churches. Man, it was by far the worst thing I have ever seen and could have ever imagined. A couple days later, the bridges opened, and we were able to get to my wife’s family, but you had to weave around the caved-in roads.”
Jenifer Quinn’s mother, stepfather and grandmother were unharmed but suffered some property damage. For a few days, the Quinns stayed with Jenifer’s mother and ate canned goods and frozen foods. Quinn also helped his brother Sandy, a county commissioner, look for people in need of help.
“He actually asked me if I could get in touch with a bunch of different people,” Quinn said. “They had no way to communicate with people, so they were just driving around making sure everybody was OK. It was getting pretty bad. Signs were going up, ‘You loot, we shoot.’ It was just crazy.”
Eventually, Quinn, his wife, and daughter made their way south to a Clearwater hotel, while they waited for the power to be restored.
“I reached out to Joe Cynar," the Phillies’ assistant director of minor-league operations, based in Clearwater, "and he got me situated,” Quinn said. “He told me anything I needed and they would be there for me. It was really cool. A lot of people reached out to me. Gabe [Kapler] called, and all the staff wanted to make sure I was all right.”
When Quinn left Citizens Bank Park at the end of last season, he could have felt like one of the most unfortunate players in the organization. Since being selected in the second round of the 2011 draft, he has been besieged by injuries that have slowed his ascent to the big leagues and prevented him from playing more than 88 games in any single season.
But, after this offseason, and after an encounter with Hurricane Michael, he feels nothing but fortunate.