The Lake County Fielders, a minor league baseball team based in Zion, fell short on many of its promises to the community, players, and even its public address stadium announcer Greg Koeppen.
Koeppen filed suit in December against the Lake County Fielders including team owner Rich Ehrenreich and actor Kevin Costner for back wages he was owed as team public address announcer during the 2011 baseball season.
He won his legal challenge before the Lake County Circuit Court system against the team after Ehrenreich repeatedly refused to attend court hearings, Koeppen said in a statement. The most recent summons was served to Ehrenreich by Lake County Sheriff’s officers at his home in Deerfield.
“This court victory wasn’t so much about getting the money I was owed, but more to show the Fielders organization, Rich Ehrenreich and actor Kevin Costner that you can’t come into a community like Lake County with a dog and pony show yet refuse to payout money to those who earned it,” says Koeppen.
“The Lake County Field of Dreams has turned into a field of nightmares for so many of us,” said Koeppen.
“At the 12th hour, Rich attempted to try and settle this lawsuit out of court promising he would pay me if I would keep the settlement confidential from the media and not make any negative comments to the media or in public about the Fielders organization. That request didn’t even warrant a reply based on the numerous written responses I have from Rich promising to pay nor was he going to take away my right to speak publically about the team and embarrassment he made of it not only locally but throughout the baseball world,” says Koeppen.
“While I am happy the judge ruled in my favor, the victory is bittersweet. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would find myself in a courtroom suing a baseball team partially owned by actor Kevin Costner to get back payment for something I love doing,” said Koeppen.
He believes other lawsuits are coming.
“It’s my hope former and current Fielders employees and players follow my lead and file a lawsuit against Rich Ehrenreich, Kevin Costner and the Fielders in Lake County Circuit Court. I would also encourage season ticket holders and sponsors who do not believe the Fielders lived up to their agreements to file suit as well,” says Koeppen.
“I am currently working to compile a list of those individuals who are still owed money as I hope to spearhead a class action lawsuit against the team in hopes others receive the money they are owed," Koeppen said. "If individuals or businesses are owed money, I hope they will contact me."
“There are so many college students, high school kids, players and even single parents owed thousands of dollars from Mr. Ehrenreich and the Fielders not to mention the $340,000 owed in back rent to the City of Zion and $43,251 owed to the Peoria Charter Coach Company for player transportation for the 2010 season,” he said.
“Ehrenreich, Costner and the Fielders need to be sent a clear message from Lake County residents and the business community. We will not support nor tolerate individuals coming into our community with promises, payments and plans they can’t fulfill. Rich Ehrenreich and Kevin Costner, you are not welcome in Lake County," says Koeppen.
Koeppen would love to return to the press box should another owner bring a team to Lake County. “It was a fun experience. I loved working behind the microphone. I made so many friends from around the United States while doing it and even housed a player I continue to stay in contact with,” adds Koeppen.
Koeppen has worked for many major clients in the Chicagoland area voicing radio and television commercials.
As for the money, Koeppen anticipates he will have to file a citation of discovery to get paid or go after the Fielder’s bank account. “When I receive payment, I plan to donate a portion of it to the Ryan & Jenny Dempster Family Foundation and the Kerry Wood Family Foundation,” says Koeppen.
The Dempster Family Foundation was started by Chicago Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster and his wife Jenny that lends support to charities and organizations supporting children with 22q11.2 deletion (DiGeorge Syndrome/VCFS) through monetary grants, programs and increased community awareness. The Wood Family Foundation started by Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood, works to improve the lives of children in and around Chicago by raising funds and awareness for children's charities and the causes they support. It raises funds through events, sponsorships and donations.