New London County

State and Local Leaders Continue Fight to Save Baseball in Norwich

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The Norwich Sea Unicorns have a new name and a new logo, but now state and local leaders fear they are in danger of having no name at all. 

According to the senior vice president of the Sea Unicorns, formerly the Connecticut Tigers, the team has been named on a list of 42 minor league baseball teams that Major League Baseball is proposing to cut ties with. 

"It looks like it is going to be a long process. At this point we don't really have a lot of answers," said C.J. Knudsen. 

Knudsen said he was informed by Minor League Baseball in October that the Norwich Sea Unicorns are one of many teams across the nation that are in danger of losing their major league affiliation. 

"It is a mystery as to why we are on that list," said Knudsen. 

Earlier this month, the MLB released a statement citing their concerns over ensuring minor leagues have "safe playing facilities" and are provided appropriate compensation. 

The statement goes on to read, "MLB is committed to negotiating with minor league baseball to find solutions that balance the competing interest of local communities, MLB clubs, minor league owners and the young players who pursue their dream of becoming professional baseball players." 

"Which is a good goal, but they can do it without eliminating the minor league teams," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). 

Blumenthal held a press conference at City Hall on Friday to voice his concerns over the potential cuts. He said he will be joining Gov. Ned Lamont and other state leaders in writing directly to the commissioner of the MLB. The senator also said he will reach across party lines and work with other senators from impacted states to develop a plan.

"To put it in a way that Major League Baseball will best understand it, since its interests seem to be in dollars and cents, we will revoke its anti-trust exemption as a leverage point," said Blumenthal. 

Mayor of Norwich Peter Nystrom also spoke briefly at the press conference. He said the team is an important part of the fabric of the community.

"Our focus right now is keeping our team," said Nystrom. 

Nystrom said he has written to mayors in other cities who have teams on the list as well. He is hoping to form some sort of group with the mayors to develop strategies moving forward. Nystrom said losing the team would hurt Norwich, not just because of the rich history and economic impact, but the city just signed a 10-year lease with the Sea Unicorns at Dodd Stadium. 

"We could not sign on until we got the go-ahead at the highest level and a month and a half later they try and pull it out from under us," said Nystrom. "That is unacceptable." 

Knudsen said they are hoping to stay in Norwich for years to come. He said the organization has brought more than one million dollars into the community in the last ten years. They also partner with charities and small businesses. He is asking for support for the 2020 season. Opening day is June 21. 

"It would be really disappointing if minor league baseball leaves this area because it is definitely not our want and our hope," said Knudsen. 

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