Led by General Manager Lee Walter Jr., Assistant General Manager Heather Bartlett, and Futures League Manager of the Year Kevin Murphy, Norwich picked up the Organization of the Year award to cap a championship season both on and off the field at Dodd Stadium. The 2023 season marked just Norwich’s third in the Futures League since making its move official in April of 2021.
Not only did the Sea Unicorns win 39 games en route to their first-ever Futures League regular-season and postseason championships in August, but they finished the summer increasing attendance by about 21 percent from 2022, which had seen a 53 percent rise from 2021. The 52,739 fans that attended regular-season games in Norwich were the second-most in the league and put them in the top 25 percent of all summer collegiate teams nationwide.
“Norwich did an outstanding job this year both on and off the field,” Paolucci said. “The way they have transitioned from pro ball to summer collegiate ball without losing any of their dedicated fan base has been really impressive. The leadership of Lee Walter Jr. and Kevin Murphy was second to none, and it brought them their first FCBL championship. I was just really impressed how they ran that organization from start to finish this year.”
The 2023 season in Norwich was punctuated by three postseason games played before lively crowds at Dodd. The Sea Unicorns bested the in-state rival New Britain Bees in a best-of-three semifinal series before capturing the title with a 2-1 victory in an epic winner-take-all game against second-seeded Vermont.
On the field, 10 Sea Unicorns were selected as Futures League All-Stars, including third baseman Dean Ferrara (Fairfield) 一 the Futures League’s Most Valuable Player whose .422 batting average set a new single-season best in league history 一 and eventual Postseason MVP Johnny Knox (Nichols).
“When we joined the league just before the 2021 season, we knew we had a tough road ahead of us,” Walter said. “Upon being named General Manager in early 2022, I had a three-year plan in mind to grow the fan base back, as well as create a culture that was enjoyable for the team and allowed them to improve as players and people so that we could send them back to their respective colleges healthy and prepared for the following season.
“I expected 2024 to be the year that we were ready to compete on the field and have the fan base there to support a top organization both on and off the field. We were able to beat that timeline by a year thanks to the hard work of our front office staff and Kevin Murphy as our first-year manager,” Walter added. “This award is further proof of that, and we are grateful to Commissioner Paolucci for honoring our organization with this great award!”
Walter and Bartlett completed their second seasons in their current role in 2023. Other front office staff includes Kevin Smith, Reade Kirby and Mike Neville. The new look front office staff is hard at work this off-season, getting ready to provide fans with the best experience to date. So far the Sea Unicorns have announced their intention to celebrate the 30th season of baseball at Dodd Stadium throughout the 2024 season. Stay tuned for more information, and as always, Go Sea Unicorns!