Lake County Fielders season ticket holder: Refund me, Costner
Jason Kern and a friend chipped in $1,800 each to buy six Lake County Fielders season tickets for this year under the belief they'd be watching teams competing in the independent North American Baseball League.
But now that the Fielders begin a final, long homestand with a semiprofessional team from Kenosha on Wednesday night, Kern contends the product promised to him has yet to be delivered. He said he's trying to obtain a refund.
"I'm not spending $1,800 a year to watch a semipro game," Kern said Tuesday. "It's not professional ball."
Actor Kevin Costner is touted as a Fielders co-owner, with his image on pocket schedules and the team's website since the 2010 inaugural season. Kern said Costner should step up and address the team's woes.
"Costner is somewhat responsible," said Kern, adding he'd welcome the actor's signature on a refund check.
Publicist Arnold Robinson has refused to make the "Field of Dreams" star available to address the controversy that's been enveloping the Lake County team.
Last week, the Fielders suddenly canceled a final road trip to play Na Koa Ikaika Maui. That led to an announcement that the Maui team wouldn't come to Lake County to play a series at Zion's unfinished ballpark at Route 173 and Green Bay Road this week.
Rather than Maui, the beleaguered Fielders are to host the semipro Kenosha Kings at Zion's ballpark for games Wednesday through Aug. 23. Lake County enters the game amid a dispute over $185,000 in stadium rent owed to Zion.
"Both ballclubs and their fans are excited about the upcoming games," Fielders spokesman Bernie DiMeo said. "This is akin to the old-time minor leagues -- local town ball, with each community having bragging rights at the end of every game."
DiMeo said the Kings will substitute for the Yuma Scorpions and Edmonton Capitals if those North American League teams choose not to visit Lake County for the Fielders' home schedule that ends Sept. 5.
Managed by controversial former major league slugger Jose Canseco, the Scorpions are to travel from Arizona and follow the Kings with six games against the Fielders. Edmonton has a seven-game series with the Fielders to end the season in Zion.
Kern, 38, of Waukegan, said he bought the Fielders season tickets because he enjoys independent and minor-league baseball. He said part of the draw was the stadium where fans were told the team would play.
Originally, the Fielders' stadium was pegged for a 55-acre former landfill site near Ninth Street and Green Bay Road in Zion. Plans called for a 4,000-seat ballpark with amenities such as suites, party decks and a concert stage.
Zion officials then announced a shift to Green Bay Road and Route 173, where construction on "a multimillion-dollar minor-league baseball stadium" was supposed to begin in mid-April 2010. Another stalled plan was announced in March.
"I feel that the city of Zion has some significant blame in the issues faced during the 2010 and 2011 season," Kern said.
Zion Mayor Lane Harrison couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Fielders manager Chris Arago said he's ready to play whomever shows up for Wednesday night's game against the Kenosha Kings. Starting pitcher Steve Junker and other players have left since the Maui trip was canceled.
Arago, a 30-year baseball veteran, said the Fielders aren't the only team with financial woes. He cited the Los Angeles Dodgers' bankruptcy and the New York Mets' problems stemming from ownership's involvement with Bernard Madoff.
"Every situation is unique in its own way," Arago said.
Junker, 24, received his release from the Fielders last Friday. He said he wants to reach a higher level of baseball and pitching to semipro batters wouldn't help his career, which started as a 32nd-round draft pick of the Colorado Rockies in 2009.
"I want to play baseball and that's my dream," Junker said.
Richard Ehrenreich's Grand Slam Sports and Entertainment is the Fielders' parent company. Zion recently served a default notice to Ehrenreich seeking the $185,000 in back rent.
Ehrenreich has said he stopped paying rent on the temporary diamond because there is no hint of a permanent stadium as promised.