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 On Thursday morning, however, that statement had been replaced by one that said the league was in discussions with Maui and Lake County over the rest of the schedule.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.
Late Monday, the NAL made an announcement on its website that the schedule modification is league-wide. The regular season for every other team has been cut by a week, now ending on Aug. 28.
Later in the NAL release, it said "the Maui franchise has been approved to complete their season at the conclusion of last weekend's final regularly scheduled homestand."
The last game against a league opponent happened last Tuesday when Japanese female pitcher Eri Yoshida gained her first win in the professional ranks - Maui's third win in its last 17 games. Na Koa ends their second season with a 29-40 record.
Monday's NAL press release concluded that the Fielders "have been approved to complete their season at home, including games with the newly formed Kenosha County Fielders."
Kenosha County is not a member of the independent NAL - the team was introduced on the Lake County website on Sunday.
Maui's final road trip was to start with 11 games at Lake County, beginning Monday. The trip was also to have included stops in Chico, Calif.; McAllen, Texas; and Rio Grande Valley, Texas.
Templeton said his team was ready to travel until Lake County did not show up here.
"To me, that is a serious problem," he said. "In Mike Tyson's word, that is ludicrous."
Indications are that Na Koa are attempting to clear up their bills here.
Broadcaster Bill Schindler, who sued the team last week for $1,310 for what he said was due to him for work in the last two seasons, said he received a check from the team for that amount over the weekend. He cashed it on Monday and said he will drop the suit.
Maui County Public Information Officer Rod Antone said Monday that Na Koa are making progress on cutting down their bill for use of Maehara Stadium. The county's agreement calls for Na Koa to pay $15,000 per season for improvements to the facility - $5,671.80 was left over from the 2010 season, under different ownership.
The team had made $7,000 in improvements before the final homestand. Na Koa officials met with county administrators last week.
"Na Koa gave us another check for $5,000 and we have an agreement that they are going to pay us back the ($8,671.80) difference within two months," Antone said. "As far as we're concerned we ended on a good note and we have every indication that they are going to be back for the 2012 season."
Templeton said he will meet with Young within two weeks to discuss the future.
"When I meet with Bob I am going to sit down and see what kind of agreement we can come to," Templeton said. "You have got to give me more money to come back."
When asked if Maui is viable in a league that stretches from Illinois, to Texas, to Alberta and to the Valley Isle, Templeton was noncommittal.
"I don't know, that is not for me to say," he said. "You bring in the right owner . . . I think it all depends on whether the other owners are going to be willing to come over here to play."
Templeton added quickly that he thinks Na Koa will be back.
"I think Bob Young has every intention of coming back here and putting a championship team on the field for Maui," he said.
Of the Maui players released, Templeton said closer Clayton Uyechi is headed to Winnipeg, center fielder Mitch Einertson was signed by a team in Wichita, Kan., and pitcher Jesse Smith is going to Edmonton.
"They are a great bunch of kids," Templeton said. "They were a little short on talent, but they played hard. They ran out of gas and mentally they lost their concentration over that last two-week period."
Templeton added that he thinks pitchers Matthew Broughton, Ryan Page, David Dinelli and Ramon Martinez and outfielders Einertson and Steve Tedesco all have shots of being picked up by affiliated teams.
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org