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NAL soap opera continues; Johnson, LaCock walk away second time

North American LeagueTim Johnson and Pete LaCock left the independent North American League for a second time, as an attempt to join Jose Canseco with the Yuma Scorpions was thwarted by league officials.

The back story: Johnson was manager and LaCock coach with the Lake County Fielders (independent; North American League) when that team went through early-season financial woes, with the end of a 32-game trip culminating with bounced checks and a player revolt. Johnson quit in disgust; LaCock stuck around for one more game and played pitchers in the field because of a protest from position players. (The alternative: forfeit the game.) Jose Canseco, heading the opposing Yuma Scorpions squad, decided to play pitchers in the field and took to the mound himself to keep things even. Since then, the Fielders traded nine players and released 14, bringing in a new manager as well; even the play-by-play quit in disgust.

Amazingly, Johnson and LaCock were attempting to stick with the league, even after how they were treated in Lake County; Canseco, who played under Johnson with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1998, and Yuma GM Jose Melendez worked on a deal to bring in the pair as well as four former Fielders. That was not to be: after fining LaCock $2,500 for his role in the pitchers-in-the-field game, NAL Commissioner Kevin Outcalt declared that LaCock was suspended indefinitely (especially insulting after LaCock drove all the way from Kansas City to take the gig). Outraged, Johnson quit the league a second time in a matter of weeks, followed by the suspended LaCock. And three of the four Fielders players slated to join Yuma — pitcher Chris Thompson and outfielders Lino Garcia and Argelis Nunez — walked away as well. (They all immediately landed gigs with other indy teams.)

Bringing Johnson and LaCock back into the fold after the financial fiasco in Zion could have ended up being a nice move for the league. Instead, it just reopens an old sore and allows LaCock to spill more about the finances of the struggling circuit — he told the Yuma newspaper the Fielders owe money not just to players, coaches and vendors but other NAL teams as well.

As an addendum: We were a little skeptical when Canseco signed up to manage and play for the Scorpions, but he and Melendez have shown a lot of class in the face of much adversity.

RELATED STORIES: 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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