An (almost) new cast of characters for Fielders
By Bryan Bonato Special to The News-Sun July 13, 2011 11:06PM
As we’ve seen over the last two years, when it comes to the Zion-based Fielders minor-league baseball team, players, managers, coaches, radio announcers and office workers come and go, but Lucky the mascot has always stayed the course. | SUN-TIMES MEDIA F
Updated: July 14, 2011 2:25AM
On the list of familiar faces around the baseball stadium in Zion these days, Lucky the team mascot is at the top of the list.
But he’s not the only one on that list.
Last weekend, the manager, coaches, and almost all the players on the Lake County Fielders roster departed Zion, apparently in disgust over their financial situations and how it related to the club.
Yet, three players chose not to depart with their teammates, and all have been in uniform and in action during this week’s long series of games against the Chico Outlaws.
Catcher Alan Rick, pitcher Evan Kohli, and middle-infielder Brad Payne were on the roster last week and were still on it Wednesday night.
Payne played his college ball at the NAIA level (Northwestern College in Iowa), finished his playing career in 2010 and graduated in 2011.
He was with the Fielders for the season-opening 32-game road trip.
He offered no comment on the issues that caused his teammates to leave the team, but did say there was a good reason he stayed.
“I’m still in my first year. It’s hard as a rookie to find a spot elsewhere,” he said. “Getting a chance to play and make a name for myself is the most important thing for my career right now.”
Payne said he did get some advice on what to do when almost everybody else was packing up.
“I talked to some teammates, guys who have played ball at this level,” he said. “I talked to Nick Belmonte (the Fielders’ player-personnel director) who first hooked me up with the team. He gave me my first shot.
“So, after talking to people, I decided sticking around and getting a chance to play was going to be the best thing for me right now.”
The other familiar face on the field this week belongs to first-baseman Brian McFall — that’s Chico first-baseman Brian McFall.
A fan favorite with Fielders fans last year, like every other member of that 2010 squad, he’s no longer in Zion.
“Like I told some of the fans that have already come up to me, it’s nice to see some of the same faces I saw last year. This is a great community,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to showing the guys (his Outlaws teammates) some of the places around here.”
McFall is from Arizona, so playing in California is closer to his home.
“The community here in Zion is awesome, but there are some ... interesting things happening with the Fielders organization,” he said about his departure.