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Wrapping up Na Koa: Questions, questions

August 17, 2011 - Robert Collias
So here we are, some questions about Na Koa Ikaika Maui have been answered — most notably, they are done for the season, not all of which is their fault — and some outstanding monetary issues have been completely addressed (Bill Schindler's lawsuit, Pacific Radio Group's court-awarded judgement) and some have a ways to go (Maui County). Others are still out there.

As things started to unravel rapidly for the team in its last homestand — a harsh statement about Schindler on Facebook from Na Koa managing partner Bob Young, only about a third of the team's debt to the county paid until last week (and believe me, this team gets a smoking good deal from Maui County at $15,000 per year for use of Maehara Stadium) — I would not have expected bills to be handled in these two cases as they were within the last week: A $5,000 check to the county and Schindler's lawsuit settled with full payment.

At that point, it also was hard to expect this team to be back next year, two ownership groups in, two county administrations in, tons of money problems in.

Now both the team says it looks forward to being back next year and the county says it wants them back.

With that in mind, here is the start of my story after talking to manager Garry Templeton — and no one else (I know you're shocked, but Young didn't return a phone call Monday seeking comment, still hasn't) — wrapping up how the season ended so abruptly:

WAILUKU - Na Koa Ikaika Maui's final 23 games of the North American Baseball League season, all scheduled for the road, have been scrapped by the team and the players have been released, manager Garry Templeton confirmed Monday morning.

The cancellation of the last trip comes on the heels of the final home series not being played last week when the cash-strapped Lake County Fielders did not come to Maui for a four-game set that was scheduled for Wednesday through Saturday.

"It is really disappointing what happened to our team," said Templeton, who said he and the players were informed their season was over on Thursday before they played exhibition games Friday and Saturday against local teams.

Templeton put the blame for the end of Maui's season on Lake County. It has been reported by several news outlets that the Fielders are in a stadium dispute with the city of Zion, Ill. The city says it is owed $185,000 in rent dating back to last season. The Fielders have said they are not paying the rent because they have not seen progress on a promised permanent stadium from the city.

On Wednesday evening, the NAL posted a statement on its website that Lake County was out of the league because it did not make the trip to Maui. On Thursday morning, however, that statement had been replaced by one that said the league was in discussions with Maui and Lake County over the rest of the schedule.

None of it sat well with Templeton.

"The league kicked them out and then overnight let them back in," Templeton said. "I think our league needs to get a lot better at checking out what owners are in the league. It is totally not fair as to what happened to our team."

Na Koa managing partner Bob Young did not return a phone call Monday seeking comment.

Click here for the rest of the story.

And here is Na Koa's statement emailed to me at 10:09 a.m. Tuesday:

"Na Koa Ikaika Maui announces with great disappointment and heavy heart the suspension of the 2011 regular season. The Lake County Fielders failed to arrive in Maui for scheduled games. This no-show resulted in material default of their operating agreement with the league. Lake County has been fined $25,000 per missed game, to be paid to Maui — a debt that Na Koa Ikaika will begin suit to collect. With these litigious matters in mind, we could not in good conscience continue the season by sending our team to Lake County and the League Board of Governors agreed, shortened the season for all teams, and are currently reviewing the entire sordid situation. The decision of the League for us to honorably bring an end to our season and stand for what is right — a position that truly captures the Strong Warrior spirit — was not reached easily, despite our present position in the standings. However, we, and the entire League, felt strongly that we must maintain our integrity and stand for principle as a result of such actions. We offer our heartfelt mahalo to staff, coaches, players, sponsors, vendors and fans, and look forward to a championship season in 2012."

Na Koa can sue this team all it wants, but keep in mind the Fielders owe the city of Zion, Ill., $185,000 in back rent and owner Richard Ehrenreich's previous team got run out of Schaumburg, Ill., when he rang up more than $551,000 in unpaid rent and more than $920,000 in total bills that collectors are looking for.

And I would give Na Koa Ikaika Maui a lot better shot at returning next season than the now-crumbling North American Baseball League that is pretty well explained in this piece from Ballparkdigest.com, a very cool site for minor league baseball fans.

The biggest question may be not whether the Maui franchise wants to come back or it is financially able to, but rather will there be a league out there that wants a team (lots of talk about adding more in Hawaii, but that is clearly some ways off) in the middle of the Pacific Ocean?

 
 

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