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Lake County Fielders blame Zion, stadium issue for money troubles

Updated: October 25, 2011 12:30AM

Financial problems that have led to a series of on-field woes for the Lake County Fielders stem from the lack of a stadium promised by the city of Zion three years ago, a team spokesman said Tuesday.

‘‘There is another side to this,’’ Fielders spokesman Bernie DiMeo said. ‘‘With no stadium, you can’t sell tickets, you can’t get sponsorship commitments. But we’re still leading the [North American Baseball League] in average attendance.’’

The Fielders have come through a strange opening weekend at home that saw manager Tim Johnson quit before their game Saturday and 11 players refuse to play in a show of support after not being paid. Hitting coach Pete LaCock took over as interim manager Saturday, using pitchers as position players and non-pitchers to pitch, then resigned after the game.

On Sunday, pitching coach Chris Thompson managed a game against Yuma, but he was released Monday with 14 players. Nine other players were traded.

It happened as the Fielders came home from a 32-game trip to open the season. Final funding for a stadium at Route 173 and Green Bay Road was approved in March, but the work has not been completed. DiMeo said if the team had known the circumstances, it would have taken the year off.

The Fielders resumed play at home Tuesday against the Chico Outlaws with a new manager, Chris Arago.

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