The Lake County Fielders have been kicked out of the independent North American League after failing to show up yesterday for a scheduled four-day series against Na Koa Ikaika Maui — the logical conclusion to one of the worst seasons in baseball history.
The North American League is disappointed to announce that the Lake County Fielders have eliminated themselves from the league by failing to appear for their scheduled series today. Schedule changes will be announced shortly.
We’re guessing this wording will be important once the inevitable lawsuits are filed: note that the NAL posting put the blame on the Fielders, saying the actions of the Fielders caused the removal of the team from the league. (Being kicked out of the NAL does jeopardize the team’s lease for Fielders Stadium, as we’re guessing it contains a standard clause saying the tenant must be a member of a professional league.)
In any case, it means the remaining games in the NAL schedule must be shifted; the Fielders were scheduled to play at home for 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. We’re guessing the GMs for all three teams are actually a little relieved not to have to make the long (and fairly expensive) trek to Zion, Ill.
Where does this leave the Fielders? Besides the inevitable lawsuit claiming the league schedule caused the team to fail, you can expect efforts by team management to place the franchise in another league; we have heard from multiple reliable sources that minority investor Jonathan Fleisig has shopped a Zion plan to other indy leagues. There’s more interest in a Zion team than you’d think, but it’s all conditional: no Rich Ehrenreich, full financial backing from Fleisig and other investors, and a firm plan for a new ballpark. Zion is still seen as a very viable market by many in indy baseball, but for baseball tor return to Zion, it will take blowing up the Fielders and launching a new franchise effort from scratch. And don’t worry about Kevin Costner: his limited (5%) chunk of the team was more symbolic than anything else and was shielded from any liabilities.
It is a logical conclusion to one of the worst seasons in pro-baseball history. 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.
UPDATE: One logical conclusion is putting Na Koa Ikaika Maui on ice for the rest of the season. The team’s final home games were comprised of the Fielders series; the team is slated to spend the rest of the season on the mainland on an expensive and probably unnecessary road trip. In fact, the whole league could probably head directly into the playoffs and no one would cry too much: there really are no games with playoff implications (Calgary and Edmonton are miles ahead of their North Division foes; San Angelo and Rio Valley are miles ahead of their South Division rivals) except to determine a home-field edge).
UPDATE II: The Fielders say they’re not out — yet.
RELATED STORIES: 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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