Lake County Fielders manager quits -- via email
The Lake County Fielders say manager Tim Johnson quit the team just before Saturday's home game, but didn't inform the front office until after he had already left the baseball diamond.
Fielders spokesman Bernie DiMeo said Johnson told his players before the game he was leaving because he hadn't been paid since the season began in late May with a 31-game road trip to Hawaii, Canada, Arizona and California.
However, DiMeo said Johnson had received at least $2,500 cash at the minor league team's Gurnee Mills executive office just before the game.
DiMeo said 11 players refused to play on Saturday, either out of support for Johnson or because they claimed they too hadn't been paid, but he said everyone on the team was financially whole as of Tuesday.
Johnson didn't return messages left at his California home Tuesday. In 1999, the Toronto Blue Jays fired him as manager a few months after he admitted fabricating stories about being in combat as a Marine in the Vietnam War.
On Saturday night, the Fielders hosted the Jose Canseco-led Yuma Scorpions at a Zion baseball diamond the team leases from the city at Green Bay Road and Route 173.
Fielders hitting coach Pete LaCock served as interim manager and used pitchers as position players. After an 8-3 Scorpions victory he too resigned the team.
DiMeo said Johnson received two paychecks totaling $2,500 to $2,600 when he visited the Fielders' office at Gurnee Mills before Saturday's game. He said Johnson demanded cash for the checks instead of waiting to visit a bank on a business day.
"They accommodated his request," DiMeo said, "and then he abruptly left."
After speaking to the team, DiMeo said, Johnson departed the ballfield and sent an email to a Fielders front-office employee in the middle of the game stating he was done with the team. The Fielders play in the independent North American Baseball League.
Richard Ehrenreich's Grand Slam Sports and Entertainment owns the Fielders. Actor Kevin Costner has been billed as a co-owner.
In February, Ehrenreich's Schaumburg Flyers were evicted from their long-held lease at publicly owned Alexian Field. A judge issued a court order that returned the Flyers' lease to the village of Schaumburg and Schaumburg Park District, as well as requiring the team's ownership to pay $551,828.92 in overdue rent.
DiMeo said most of the Lake County players who refused to take the field Saturday have been traded or released. The Fielders, with new manager Chris Arago, were scheduled to begin a seven-game homestand Tuesday evening with the Chico Outlaws.
Kevin Outcalt, the North American Baseball League's chief executive officer, couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.