The Lake County Fielders announced Sunday they will remain a member in the North American League but will play "many" of their remaining games against a newly created team, the Kenosha County Fielders.
The announcement comes a week after the team was apparently booted from the independent minor league because it did not show up for a four-game series in Maui. The league released a statement saying the Fielders "eliminated themselves." Fielders owner Richard Ehrenreich did not return a message seeking comment Sunday night, but he released a statement saying the league is adjusting its schedule due to the high costs of air travel and the "distressed economy."
The statement did not say how many of the team's 21 remaining home games will be against the Kenosha County Fielders but said the two teams will face off whenever other league teams on the schedule do not travel to town. The Kenosha County Fielders will be comprised of professional minor-leaguers, according to the release.
"This little minor league team has made more comebacks this season than Rocky Balboa, and we're going to finish this marathon," said team spokesman Bernie DiMeo in the statement, calling the restructured schedule a "creative measure."
The Lake County Fielders were set to play an 11-game home series against Na Koa Ikaika Maui starting Tuesday, but it is not clear if those games will be played.
The Fielders did not show up for the four-game set last week in Maui because the trip would have cost about $60,000, Ehrenreich said.
The team intends to play all its remaining home games at a publicly owned field in Zion, where, according to the village, the organization owes $185,000 in back rent.
Ehrenreich says he stopped paying the rent because Zion hasn't delivered a permanent stadium as promised in a 25-year operating agreement.
Last week an umpire suspended a Fielders home game during the early innings due to the inferior balls the team supplied for the game.
Ehrenreich said the baseball-quality gripe originated with the Calgary Vipers' starting pitcher, and he called it "the most childish nonsense" he's encountered in his independent baseball league ownership tenure.
The recreational baseballs purchased at a sporting goods store were not the ones officially manufactured by Rawlings for professional play, Ehrenreich said, but they weren't so bad as to cause the sudden suspension of the game.