The Lake County Fielders will finish out the season as a member of the independent North American League, but if an NAL team doesn't show up for a series, the opponent will be the Kenosha County Fielders.
The Washington Generals Kenosha County Fielders could be pressed into action tomorrow, when Na Koa Ikaika Maui is scheduled to be at Fieders Stadium for an 11-game series. As Na Koa Ikaika Maui was the team slated to host the Fielders last week when Lake County bailed on an expensive ($60,000) road trip, we're thinking it's highly unlikely there will a Maui contingent in Illinois tomorrow night. (Indeed, with Maui slated to spend the rest of the season on the mainland, there's a report the team has already folded in the Maui News by Robert Collias.) The Kenosha County Fielders will be professional-level players, according to Lake County officials.
The real keys to forming the Kenosha County Fielders: it allows the Fielders to stay active in a professional league, fulfilling two key clauses in their Fielders Stadium lease. "The Fielders and the North American League are taking every creative measure necessary to support this market and stadium project, and keep professional baseball alive for Zion and the surrounding communities," said team spokesman Bernie DiMeo in a statement. "We"ll continue what we started -- professional baseball in a family friendly environment at an affordable price. This little minor league team has made more comebacks this season than Rocky Balboa, and we're going to finish this marathon!"
We're not expecting the Fielders vs. Fielders to draw many fans. The team attendance had plummeted before the whole travel debacle, as locals are clearly voting against the team with their pocketbooks. But drawing fans right now isn't the point: the point is fulfill the terms of the lease in order to position the team for the new ballpark promised in the lease or to provide a basis for legal action against the city of Zion. It will take a drastic retooling of the team and its front office to exist in 2012, however; we're expecting some huge changes in the North American League (perhaps a retrenchment to the Golden Baseball League if the Texas teams do indeed revert back to United League Baseball, as has been rumored) next season and it's hard to see the same league setup existing in 2012. For the Fielders, an extreme makeover would be needed for the franchise to join another independent league, with different leadership and more solid financial backing.
Opening the 201 North American League season with a 32-game road trip, the team quickly encountered financial adversity. As you'll recall, the Fielders released 14 players and traded nine others after an open player revolt that also saw coaches Tim Johnson and Pete LaCock resign. The issue: lack of any payments (payroll, per diem, travel) whatsoever this season. Team owners have stopped paying rent at Fielders Stadium because of the temporary condition of the ballpark; the city has demanded $185.000 in back rent. The icing on the cake: when the team forfeited a game after substituting league balls with off-the-shelf rec-league, cheaper baseballs.
RELATED STORIES: Fielders: We're still in NAL -- for now; Fielders tossed from North American League; Fielders skip on Hawaii road trip; season in question; 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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