The Lake County Fielders (independent; North American League) did not fly to Hawaii for a long series against Na Koa Ikaika Maui today as scheduled, as the team's status is now certainly up for debate.
Ownership has been quiet about exactly what's going on. That ownership, by the way, includes more than just Rich Ehrenreich, the public face of the franchise. Former Berkshire Black Bears and New Haven County Cutters (both independent; Northeast League) owner Jonathan Fleisig, now owner of the ECHL's Bakersfield Condors, has quietly putting money into the team, we're told, and has been discreetly asking about the possibility of a Zion-based team playing in other more geographically appropriate independent leagues next season and beyond. As a former indy-league owner with some money in the bank, Fleisig certainly has some credibility in trying to salvage the Lake County mess. Despite everything that's happened this season, there are many in indy baseball who will not write off the Zion market and think there's still a pretty good chance the city could be persuaded to fund a new ballpark in the future.
In the short term, though, it's a mess. It's a little absurd that there could be a game-day decision about flying to Hawaii from Chicago. The cheapest fare tomorrow is over $1,500, according to kayak.com; a 9:55 a.m. flight from O'Hare lands in Hawaii at 3:55 pm. We're not entirely sure it's physically possible to decide tomorrow morning whether to play a game tomorrow night in Maui. (The team's not flying too much these days, anyway: they bused back from Edmonton after a recent series against the Capitals, a trip of some 32 hours.)
No one, apparently, is saying a lot to the press, as it took checking up on Facebook statuses for both teams to actually figure out there's no game in Maui tonight.
Of course, deciding to pull the plug on a trip to Hawaii for a Chicago-based team when it's pretty clear you're not returning to the league isn't necessarily the dumbest financial move in the world, truth be told. Heck, the team is 0-10 in its last 10 games, so what's four more forfeits? The issue is whether the schedule gets back on track on Aug. 15: that's the next scheduled Fielders game, according to the team's website. The team ends with 11 games in nine days against Na Koa Ikaika Maui, followed by six home games hosting Yuma and another seven home games in six days against Edmonton.
RELATED STORIES: Fielders game scrapped because of sub-par baseballs; Fielders may disband because of city inaction on new ballpark; Zion: Fielders owe us $185,000 in back rent; Fielders' Zaman quits on the air; Fielders continue blame game for financial woes, adding league to mix; Fielders: Don't blame us, blame Zion; Unpaid players revolt in Lake County; 9 traded, 14 released
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