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Zion, Fielders headed for court?

Lake County FieldersAfter a horrific 2011 season, it doesn’t look like the city of Zion (Ill.) and the Lake County Fielders (independent; North American League) owners have settled their differences — and their paths may cross next in court.

You know what a nightmarish season the Fielders had. 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 $340,0000 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.

Now, with the season done and both sides prepping for 2012, it doesn’t look like tensions have eased between the city and the team. Owner Rich Ehrenreich is now calling city officials “crooks,” arguing the city never came through with a promised personal ballpark. The city says it is living up to the terms of the team’s lease, which gives Zion four years — the 2010 through 2013 seasons — to actually build a permanent ballpark. Zion officials say they were under no obligation to build a permanent ballpark no matter what the Fielders claim. Now, it looks like a judge will need to sort out the mess.

RELATED STORIES: Nine players, 125 fans in Zion; NAL season ending early; It’s Fielders vs. Fielders in Lake County; 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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