Well, it was an eventful week for the North American Baseball League, and not at all in a good way. (1) The Lake County Fielders forfeited a game for using little league baseballs. (2) An ugly brawl between two former major leaguers in Tuesday’s Yuma/Chico game ended in a forfeit and a police investigation. (3) The Fielders were subsequently kicked out of the NAL for failing to show up for a series in Maui, then allowed back in, only to set up a potentially messy divorce this off season.
(1) Sunday’s game between the Calgary Vipers and Lake County Fielders was called in the second inning after the Viper’s starter alerted the umpires to the baseballs in use. The front office failed to put in the usual order for official Rawlings balls due to financial concern about finishing the season, so they bought recreational balls from a sporting goods store like Dick’s for the game that evening. (Source) Perhaps the concern about finishing the year was a valid point, as the announced attendance for Sunday’s game was 149 people, and the Fielders owe the city of Zion $185,000 in back rent for use of the unfinished “stadium.” (More details on the story)
(2) And that brings up to forfeited game #2: Former major leaguers Tony Phillips* of the Yuma Scorpions and Chico Outlaws manager Mike Marshall went at it during Monday night’s game, in a rematch of participants of the 1988 World Series in which Marshall’s Dodgers defeated Phillips’ and current Yuma player/manager Jose Canseco’s A’s 4-1.
* Not only is Tony Phillips still playing pro ball (he of 52 years of age and 18 major league seasons), he’s hitting .302/.413/.431 this season. Does that say more about him or the talent level of the NAL? Hmmmm…
Canseco pulled his team from the game, thus forfeiting, and Marshall is possibly filling assault charges in the matter. The brawl in all its glory was captured on camera, and notice the 5’9″ Phillips giving the 6’5″ Marshall all he’s got in the fight:
(3) Finally, the NAL announced early Thursday morning on their Facebook page* and later as a press release on their website that the Lake County Fielders were no longer members of the league, as they failed to show up in Maui for their scheduled 4-game series there. The update on the site read:
*Really, breaking the news on your Facebook page?
The North American League is disappointed to announce that the Lake County Fielders have eliminated themselves from the league by failing to appear for their scheduled series today. Schedule changes will be announced shortly.
This news story should come as no surprise to anyone with any knowledge of Rich Ehrenreich’s dealings, both with the current Lake County Fielders, and formerly with the (now defunct) Schaumburg Flyers of the (now defunct) Northern League. The surprise to me is that after a closed-doors meeting between NAL brass and Ehrenreich on Thursday, the Fielders might be back in? Here’s the release currently on the NAL’s website:
The Lake County Fielders failed to show up for the scheduled series in Maui yesterday. The league is in discussions with Lake County and Maui regarding the schedule for the remainder of the season and will make an announcement shortly.
Ehrenreich says the Fielders will play out the remainder of their 25 game schedule, whether against NAL teams or not. Also, “the league is in discussions” = lawyers, so it’s really just setting the stage for
potential probable definite lawsuits in the offseason, as in all practicality the Fielders have no future beyond 2011 in the NAL.
Questions that remain are two-fold: (1) Will any other league, namely the Frontier League, take the Fielders? (2) If Lake County and Maui both fold, what happens to the rest of the NAL season?
Well, I imagine there might be some interest in the Fielders, but only with a new owner and a completed stadium. Such was the case with the Flyers and their ownership, and should continue to the be the case wherever Ehrenreich goes, if he’s somehow given another chance to own a team after this latest debacle. As far as the season goes, losing those two teams might not have the impact you’d think. They have 11 games remaining against each other, and the rest of the league pretty much has the playoffs wrapped up, with Calgary/Edmonton (North) and San Angelo/Rio Grande Valley (South) all but clinched the four spots. More updates to follow as the story develops.