Field of unfulfilled dreams
By Jeff bonato firstname.lastname@example.org July 11, 2011 9:12PM
Pete LaCock (left), a one-time Cub and longtime coach in professional baseball, talks with Tim Johnson and Yuma manager Jose Canseco before a Lake County Fielders game last week. LaCock and Johnson resigned their posts on Saturday. Sun-Times Media file
Updated: September 10, 2011 12:37AM
Pete LaCock was in Kansas City on Monday, happy to be visiting his daughter, but not necessarily happy to be there instead of here.
Until Saturday, LaCock —who has been associated with professional baseball for 40 years, including a stint with the Cubs in the 1970s — had been spending his spring/summer serving as hitting coach/third-base coach and right-hand man to close friend Tim Johnson, who was manager of the Zion-based Lake County Fielders minor-league baseball team.
But that all changed on Saturday when manager and coach abruptly resigned over mounting frustrations with the way the Fielders were being run by general-managing partner Rich Ehrenrich.
On Monday, LaCock, who looked at one time to be the heir-apparent to Mr. Cub — Ernie Banks — at first base, offered up his views on a community that loved its team and showered its players/coaches with respect and kindness, only to see the entire operation sabotaged, according to LaCock, by one man.
Here’s his views on all things Fielders:
■ On Kevin Costner, the actor/country-music singer who has been billed as an owner of the Fielders, and about people who keep waiting for him to ride his white horse to the rescue and cut the team a big check:
“Kevin Costner has nothing to do with this club. He has not put money into the club. They just told Kevin they’d give him a percentage (of profits) for using his name.
“If Kevin knew what was going on, he would be (ticked) off, just like everyone else is (ticked) off. Kevin loves baseball. If I was Kevin Costner, I’d be very, very upset.”
■ On why he and Johnson called it a year last Saturday:
“The City of Zion needs to know what’s going on. We put together a great team ... a helluva team for Zion. Who screwed it up? Rich. We are good people. I’m a good, decent person. I would never screw these kids (players, by not paying them). We thought if we quit, something would happen (to get a change), but it didn’t.”
■ And some of the rest of his thoughts:
1) “Some guys already tried to cash checks today (Monday) and they bounced. So, obviously, they’re not trying to get anything done (to make things right with the players).
2) “We were on the road for six weeks. We did not get meal money ($540 per day — $20 for 27 people) for most of the road trip. Rich would call up and say, ‘Yeah, I’ll send you $3,000 for meal money and he’d send $900. I (and Johnson) gave these kids everything they deserved every time they needed money. I’m out a couple thousand bucks and so is Tim Johnson because they (the players) didn’t have meal money.”
3) He still owes money to (pick a team in the league). He still owes money to the league. He’s not paying dues. He’s not paying employees. There’s been one employee (Andrew Lieber, director of stadium operations) who’s been there over two months and never been paid, The clubhouse guys have not been paid.”
4) “Every one of my checks but one have bounced.”
5) “Rich did the same thing to the guys in Schaumburg. He left Schaumburg owing the city $900,000.
6) “They (the Fielders) said they’d take care of it. They’re not heading toward solutions. A bunch of guys (players) called the Illinois Department of Labor and filed complaints.”
7) This is the greatest group of kids I’ve ever been associated with. We had some great players. It’s really a dirty shame this had to happen.”
8) “They said I made a mockery of the game on Saturday. I didn’t have any players who wanted to play because they hadn’t been paid.
9) “You need to get the true story out about this guy (Ehrenreich).”
10) “Tim Johnson and I have been in this game for a long time. We weren’t going to allow this to happen.”
11) “I will send you my whole bank statement ... a complete readout of everything I spent.”
12) “It’s terrible what he’s doing (not paying) these kids. They depend on it just to break even.”
13) “This has been the biggest cluster ... I’ve ever been around in baseball. Same for Tim Johnson.”
14) Tim and I really work well together. There’s nobody better than Tim Johnson. This year, we were blessed with lot of really good people ... the best bunch of kids I’ve ever been around. Tim and I cried over this. We’re so upset. The kids gave us everything they had.”
Johnson is now in San Diego, and couldn’t be reached for comment on Monday.
The Fielders’ next home game is set for 7 tonight against the team from Chico.
A new manager for the team is supposed to be named prior to the game.