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ZION, Ill. (CBS) — The strange story of the Lake County Fielders minor league baseball team took yet another unusual turn Tuesday night.
As WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports, investor Elizabeth Ochoa was supposed to pitch a $70 million sports and entertainment corridor, which would include a new home for the Fielders, during public comment at the Zion city council meeting. Fielders spokesman Bernie DiMeo alerted newsrooms with an assignment note.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports
Both DiMeo and Zion Mayor Pro Tem Jim Taylor acknowledge that Ochoa was in the room. But when Taylor asked if anyone wished to comment, no one spoke up. Before adjourning, Taylor claimed he knew nothing about Ochoa’s plan.
“We know nothing about it and we are not going to have any discussion of that here tonight,” he said.
DiMeo said Zion city officials will not return Ochoa’s calls and claims Ochoa was told to leave the meeting without speaking “rudely.” Taylor told WBBM Newsradio afterward that he’s bound by a confidentiality agreement, apparently with another group.
“That’s not the plan,” Taylor said when given a copy of the assignment note, which said that as a condition of accepting the plan, the city of Zion would have to settle the lawsuit filed against it in November by Fielders owner Grand Slam Sports, alleging fraud and breach of contract. Zion contends that the Fielders owe $340,000 in back rent.
The past year saw the Fielders scrap their league schedule midway through the season. Manager Tim Johnson fielded a team of pitchers as position players and position players as pitchers, then quit by e-mail. Players and even their radio play-by-play announcer revolted, the announcer quitting on-air following an on-air tirade.
The team, whose investors include actor Kevin Costner of “Field of Dreams” fame, has played for two seasons in a makeshift field that has now been partially dismantled. DiMeo would not commit the Fielders to playing a 2012 season in Zion, although he indicated the team would like to do so. He said unless agreement can be reached soon, the team would have to look elsewhere.
Ochoa last summer dropped plans for a similar complex in Yorkville, which also would have included soccer fields.