Norwich Sea Unicorns celebrate Dodd Stadium’s 30th anniversary

The Norwich Sea Unicorns’ 30th anniversary celebrations at Dodd Stadium are underway. And it started with a bang.

The Sea Unicorns drew 3,500 fans to the season opener on May 25. There was live music, fireworks and of course the historic unveiling of the Futures League championship banner at centerfield.

Yes, those special memories and images from the franchise’s first championship celebration last August are still fresh. Who can forget Rose City folk hero Johnny Knox hoisting the trophy over his head and walking to the stands to show it to the die-hard fans of the Sea Unicorns?

Unfortunately, Knox took his talents to the New England Collegiate Baseball League this summer. The only returning player from last year’s team is outfielder Brennan Hyde (Nichols).

“The nature of the competition is that there will be a lot of turnover from year to year and we expect that,” said Lee Walter Jr., general manager of Norwich Sea Unicorns. “We wanted Johnny back, but he has found another league to play in and we wish him the best. We have some really good players and some guys that we are excited about this season. It will only take a few weeks for fans to get used to who the new players are, but they will definitely fall in love with some of these guys. It’s going to be great.”

The players

During the Sea Unicorns’ inaugural season in 2020–2021, the team went through a late management change and quickly assembled a patchwork of players. In each of the past two seasons, the team has undergone significant roster upgrades.

“It’s a completely new team and it will be a revolving door over the summer,” said Norwich Sea Unicorns manager Kevin Murphy. “But we are excited. I think we have a very good team with a lot of good weapons.”

Murphy is pleased with the additions of infielders Alex Irizarry (Quinnipiac), Anthony Tirado (UMass), Nick Tomasetto (Rutgers) and Ryan Grace (Colby).

The Sea Unicorns’ outfield is also solid with AJ Soldra (NJIT), Christian Stratis (Alabama-Birmingham), Alan Porter III (Monmouth), Gavin Shaddix (Ohlone) and Hyde.

More: NFA baseball eliminated in second round of Class LL

The pitching core consists of three players from Yale – Teo Spadaccini, Jack Ohman, Ethan Lewis – along with Giovanni Conte (UConn), Andrew Gaines (transfer portal), Andrew Rondini (William and Mary), Jimmy Mulvaney (Fairfield) and Gavin Hawks (Rider ).

Bo Yaworski (Central Connecticut State) and Nick Sturino (Fairfield) of former Sea Unicorns have returned. Yaworski, who played at Killingly High School and Mitchell College, is from Brooklyn, CT. Norwich Free Academy alum and Brooklyn native Bryson Plante, who pitches at Central Connecticut State, will also see some action for the Sea Unicorns.

Murphy, a rising young coach now in his second season at the helm, captured the Sea Unicorns’ first Futures League title last spring for an assistant coaching job at Amherst College.

“I don’t think it will be as easy to win as it was last year,” Murphy said. “We had a kind of all-star team and the enlightenment was in a bottle with that team. I’m a young coach, so I’m going to see what works, try to make the right decisions and rotate guys in and out of the lineup. It’s hard to win in this competition.”

Quick start

Murphy was on his toes when the Sea Unicorns hosted the Vermont Lake Monsters on June 4 and 5 in a rematch of last season’s winner-take-all championship game in Dodd. Norwich defeated Vermont 2-1.

“They want revenge and they’re a good team,” Murphy said. “We have a target on our back this season. Until last year no one really took Norwich seriously.”

The result: the Sea Unicorns defeated the Lake Monsters, 6-3 and 8-2.

On Tuesday, Norway came back from a 3-0 deficit. Tirado went 3-for-5 with an RBI, Irizarry had two hits and two RBIs, catcher Aidan Baglino (Fairfield) had two hits and pitchers Gaines, Ethan Lewis and Mulvaney combined for 6.1 shutout innings in relief.

The next day, Stratis went 4-for-4 with four RBIs, while pitchers Timmothy Lewis (New Haven) and Hawks combined for eight strikeouts.

The Sea Unicorns are off to a 7-3 start.

“It’s a good start,” Murphy said. “And our three losses were all by one run, with the tying run coming at third base in each game. It’s going to be really competitive this year. Some teams have become slightly better than last year. Everyone will finish around .500. It’s going to be a back and forth summer.

More: Zanor column: NFA and West Haven renew their rivalry

All-Star Game

The highlight of the Sea Unicorns’ 30th Dodd Stadium celebrations will be at the end of July, when the Futures League All-Star Game will be hosted by Norwich for the first time. The two-day extravaganza consists of a Home Run Derby (Monday, July 22) and the All-Star Game (Tuesday, July 23).

“Obviously, we came away with a great finish to the title last year and being Dodd Stadium’s 30th season that we’ve been celebrating all year, it was only natural to host the All-Star Game this year,” said Walter Jr. said.

Walter Jr. is in his third season as general manager of the Sea Unicorns and the All-Star Game festivities will be a great treat and reward for Norwich baseball fans.

“We will have a number of other events this season as well, but the All-Star Game is the big one,” Walter Jr. said. “And hopefully at the end of the season we will be fighting for a play-off spot and have a chance to defend our title.”

Back To Top