The Northern League expansion Lake County Fielders, which is part-owed by actor Kevin Costner, has signed OF Ian Church to a 2010 contract. For the hardcore independent baseball fans, in case that name sounds familiar, Church was the Frontier League’s MVP in 2006 when he hit .317/.380/.668 including 38 doubles and 31 home runs in 96 games. More impressive than the 5’10” 180-pound Church’s stat line that season was that he had never hit more than 5 home runs in a single season in his career up to that point, including his senior year at Stetson University, when he hit just .289 with one home run in 60 games. He played three seasons in the Northern League (03-05) before coming to the Frontier League in 2006.
Church was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals in the off-season and played the 2007 season with the Palm Beach Cardinals in the Florida State League, hitting .244/.271/.422 with 16 doubles and four home runs in 51 games before getting injured and eventually released. Church was out of baseball in 2008 and 2009. The manager of the Lake County Fielders is the same man that managed Church during his MVP season in Kalamazoo, Fran Riordan.