A baseball tournament that brought thousands of people, and dollars, to McHenry County has pulled out of the area.
The Continental Amateur Baseball Association holds a number of tournaments across the country for age groups ranging from 8-year-olds to 18-year-olds.
CABA's annual tournament was held at multiple locations in the county, including McHenry, Woodstock, Johnsburg, Lakemoor, Huntley and, until recently, _.
But even after CABA made a three-year commitment to stay in the area before the 2011 tournament, the organization pulled out citing a number of factors.
According to CABA director Larry Redwine, one reason for CABA leaving the area was CABA-Northern Illinois, the group running the CABA tournament in McHenry County, refusing to stop charging a per player fee.
CABA sites charge admission fees instead of charging a per-player fee for each team. According to Redwine, Northern Illinois refused to adopt this policy even after the CABA board voted to make it a rule.
"The CABA board of directors took a lot of heat from teams throughout the country complaining about the per-player fee charged there (Northern Illinois). Every other site simply charges spectators an admission charge to attend games," Redwine said in a written statement to Patch.
"When you enter into an agreement there are certain things that the parties to that agreement must live up to. If they can't then you don't agree to the terms of the agreement. Abiding by CABA policies is a given for our World Series hosts," Redwine said of Northern Illinois' refusal to stop charging per-player fees.
Another factor for CABA leaving McHenry County was CABA-Northern Illinois still owing money.
According to Redwine, Northern Illinois has outstanding financial obligations to CABA and others.
"Our contract clearly outlines financial responsibility for the event rests with the host, who gets all but a small amount of the tournament income (including most of the entry fee — all gate receipts, concession sales, program advertising, sponsorship monies, program sales, etc.)," Redwine said. "Northern Illinois was making good strides in liquidating that debt, but it's still a reality. Our terms for hosting an event are the most site friendly in amateur baseball, so there's no reason for us to feel unreasonable."
Redwine also claimed that insufficient lodging for the visitors was a factor in the CABA board voting to leave the area.
"We also took a troubling amount of heat because of lack of affordable lodging for teams and spectators who pour a lot of money into the local economy over a short period of time," Redwine stated.
EnRico Heirman, the director for CABA-Northern Illinois, was overseeing the area tournament when the factors that forced CABA to pull out of the area came about. Calls seeking answers from Heirman went unanswered. He did release a statement via email.
"Needless to say, I was heartbroken to learn of the Board’s decision,“ Heirman stated via email. “I am so proud of the collective efforts of all involved. CABA was the 'Heartbeat of America' in our area and the entire community really rolled out the red carpet."
"EnRico Heirman has been one of the best ambassadors for CABA in the history of the association. It is still my desire that he continue his service on the CABA board," Redwine stated.
Heirman has since moved out of Illinois.
Pete Merkel, Director of Parks & Recreation for McHenry, is disappointed in McHenry losing the tournament.
"It’s unfortunate that the tournament has moved on to another location," Merkel said.
When Patch contacted CABA-Northern Illinois coaches and volunteers in October most were not aware of CABA's intentions to leave McHenry County.
One coach, who asked not to be named, was upset with the way things were handled.
"I'm sick," he said. "If EnRico wants to take off or the board doesn't want him, whatever. But there are plenty of good people here who can do as good a job. And this is how I find out? They couldn't even call me? My phone seems to be working."
But the tournament departure wasn't shocking news to Merkel.
"We’re not surprised," he said. "There’s always competition for these types of events."
Redwine explained how difficult CABA leaving Illinois had been for him.
“There will always be a special place in my heart regarding CABA in Northern Illinois. I attended this World Series every year and have the upmost of respect for their leadership. You will find no better baseball men than Michael Turner, Steve White, Marty Palmer, Joe Meyer and another CABA National Hall of Famer, Jim Albright. Their award-winning CABA Opening Ceremonies are simply phenomenal,” stated Redwine. “To be perfectly candid, I was against this change as the loyalty demonstrated in the past has forged many deep and meaningful lifelong relationships. It became a battle of personal relationships versus doing what needed to be done for long-range CABA growth and success. It was one of the toughest scenarios of my entire life.”
Merkel said there wasn't a plan to fill the void left by CABA, but that they're willing to talk about bringing something new to the area.
"We’re open to any organizations," Merkel said. "I think McHenry and the McHenry County area have hosted these tournaments in the past and they’ve been very successful."