The Lake County Fielders are in the midst of only their second season in the Chicago area. They came into the area with much fanfare last year, as the latest professional, independent minor league baseball team in the area. It was set to bring professional baseball that has not had a professional team in some time. It was also huge because one of the owners was actor Kevin Costner. Now, however, managers have quit and players have walked out.
The problem seems to be unpaid salaries. Just recently the team missed its most recent payroll. To try and alleviate the problem, the team released 14 players and traded nine more. Once those transactions were forced upon the managers, current manager Tim Johnson and coach Pete LaCock were shown the door as well.
This past Saturday the Fielders put a team on the baseball diamond that had pitchers in player positions. Many thought it was a promotional gimmick by LaCock, but it turns out that was not the case. It happened because the team missed payroll and 11 players decided not to show up in protest over it. The players are upset over the way the team is being run, including the management stylings of Costner.
During the game, their opponent, managed by former baseball slugger Jose Canseco, agreed to respond in kind. He too put pitchers in player positions. This shows more class, many are saying, on Canseco’s part than players are getting from Fielders’ management.
Tim Johnson, the manager, had already decided to quit in protest. LaCock made a statement, expressing his disgust over the way things were being managed and then he quit. Just after that happened, the players were traded or let go. Only one player on the current roster was retained.
The Fielders released a statement that they want to start fresh.
The Fielders are now part of a new baseball league, known as the North American League. Prior to this, they were part of the Northern League. The entire league seems to be on fragile ground as it combines teams from three former independent minor league baseball leagues. The extensive travel schedule has been a problem for some teams and many feel that even the best-selling Fielders cannot make enough money to keep up with costs.