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Empty seats doom DeKalb County Liners

Baseball team says it won’t be back for 4th season

Published: Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Rob Winner – rwinner@shawmedia.com)
A few fans catch the start of a DeKalb County Liners game in Sycamore in June.

Anthony Foulk was there for every moment in DeKalb County Liners history.

Foulk, a 2008 graduate of Sycamore High School, played for the Liners each of the past three summers and was part of the team’s inaugural season in 2010 and its long playoff run in 2012.

But on Tuesday night, the team announced on its Facebook page that, because of a lack of attendance, the Liners will not be continuing for a fourth season.

“This has been a trying business venture from day one, getting community buy-in and support,” said Josh Pethoud, the Liners’ general manager over the past three seasons. “If there could’ve been a way to continue this, it could’ve been very successful. Any sporting venture takes a minimum of five years to be successful.”

The Liners, who competed in the Midwest Collegiate League, played all three seasons at Founders Field in Sycamore. The team gave college baseball players an opportunity to compete against other collegiate athletes during its two-month summer schedule.

“It was an incredible opportunity for me, especially since we lived so close,” Foulk said. “To play in the same town I played in high school, I really feel that playing for the Liners during the summer helped me progress as a player, helped me grow.”

The Liners made the playoffs for the first time in 2012 and competed for the MCL Championship, losing to the Northwest Indiana Oilmen, 2-0, in the three-game championship series. The other members of MCL are the Rockford Forresters, Southland Vikings, Will County Crackerjacks, DuPage County Hounds, Chicago Zephyrs and Illinois Lincolns.

Despite the on-field success, not enough fans were drawn to the ballpark to keep the team in operation. Brien Martin, the Liners’ scorekeeper and public address announcer last season, said the team’s attendance only topped 500 on opening night. He noted there were a couple games where the Liners only drew 150 fans.

“I just don’t think a lot of people knew that they were even there,” said Frank Beierlotzer, a fan who attended multiple Liners games. “There are a lot of people who are baseball fans. They weren’t very well-advertised, I think, and they just couldn’t get good attendance.”

Beierlotzer said he threw out the first pitch at a home game last summer and will keep the ball, which is signed by every Liners player from the 2012 team.

The Liners drew players from all over the country, but Foulk said he relished the opportunity to play in front of family and friends, especially since he played collegiate baseball at North Greenville University in South Carolina.

“All my family enjoyed being able to watch me pretty much every day during the summer,” Foulk said. “I have a bunch of family who lives in the area.”

Foulk, who recently graduated and is now working for the Rockford Ice Hogs, was looking forward to possibly being a coach with the Liners this season. He said he hopes the owners can keep the team local in the future.

Martin said he was surprised the team wasn’t given one more season after the MCL eliminated overnight travel to keep the team’s day-to-day operating costs down. But he was thankful for those did come out to the ballpark during the summer.

“We had loyal fans. The people who came, they loved it,” Martin said. “I really appreciate the people who came out. They were very supportive of us.”

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