Lake County Fielders say they won't have a league this season
The beleaguered Lake County Fielders baseball team will not play in any formal league this season, team officials announced Monday.
The Zion-based team, which had been part of the independent North American Baseball League, broke the news to email subscribers. The email blamed the schedule change on the lack of construction of a proper stadium.
"Regrettably, the city still hasn't commenced stadium construction, so the Fielders simply have no choice but to suspend plans for a 2012 league season and look to 2013 and beyond," the email read.
That's not to say the Fielders won't play any games in 2012, in Zion or elsewhere, team President Rich Ehrenreich said.
"We're still exploring options of things we can do out there," Ehrenreich told the Daily Herald.
When asked if the Fielders could exist as a traveling team without a home stadium, Ehrenreich frowned on the idea.
"We essentially did that for two years, and we're not going to keep doing that," he said. "It's not a (sustainable) business model."
North American Baseball League CEO Kevin Outcault couldn't be reached for comment.
The league website still included the Fielders logo on its main page Monday, but the Fielders were not listed as being in either of the league's divisions.
The Fielders played in a different league during their inaugural 2010 season.
Monday's announcement shouldn't surprise anyone following the Fielders. Without a proper stadium and continued financial woes, the team encountered problem after problem last year.
A manager, a coach, players and even a radio announcer quit over payment issues. The Fielders skipped traveling to Hawaii for a series against a team there, which led to the North American League dropping the team from its schedule.
The club even got into hot water over the quality of baseballs it provided for a game.
The Fielders finished the year playing games against a semipro club from Kenosha.
And then came the lawsuits, both against and from Zion officials over the stadium plans.
The email, signed simply "The Lake County Fielders," said leagues have minimum standards for stadiums, including permanent seats, locker rooms and plumbing. The field in Zion had none of these elements.
"We remain hopeful that the city will build the stadium it promised the community," the email read.
Zion Mayor Lane Harrison was not available for comment.
The Fielders website on Monday said tickets for the 2012 season were not available for purchase.
Ehrenreich said the Fielders have no players, coaches or a manager at this point. But a team could be put together very rapidly, "within days," in order to play, he said.