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Vermont Lake Monsters Named 2021 Futures League Organization of the Year

WEYMOUTH, Mass. (October 19, 2021) -- After leading the Futures Collegiate Baseball League (FCBL) in the regular-season standings and fan attendance, the championship-winning Vermont Lake Monsters were recognized as the 2021 FCBL Organization of the Year, while Senior Vice President C.J. Knudsen was honored as the William J. Terlecky Executive of the Year.

Commissioner Joe Paolucci presented both awards during the FCBL Fall Organizational Meeting, which was held earlier this month in conjunction with the second annual Golf Tournament at Leicester Country Club in Leicester, Mass.

“From start to finish, the Vermont Lake Monsters were the class of the Futures League,” Paolucci said. “Behind the leadership of President & COO Chris English, Senior Vice President C.J. Knudsen, General Manager Dave Schermerhorn and Field Manager Pete Wilk, the Lake Monsters thrived on and off the field. The Futures League is stronger because of what they did this summer and we are all excited to see how their brand will continue to grow.”

After being affiliated with the Montreal Expos (1994-2004), Washington Nationals (2005-10) and Oakland Athletics (2011-20), the Lake Monsters were announced in late February as one of two new teams to join the FCBL for the 2021 season. 

Led by English and Knudsen, a new era of Lake Monsters baseball was launched less than three months before the first pitch was thrown at Centennial Field. The community responded as Vermont averaged more than 1,700 fans and welcomed a total of 63,104 for its 37 regular-season home openings. More than 5,000 attended three playoff games in late August, the last of which was a title-clinching victory in the best-of-three series finale against Pittsfield.

“We want to thank our partners in the Futures League for this great honor,” English said. “It truly was an organizational effort and award. An organizational award means you excelled on all levels of running a baseball team. Congratulations to the entire organization.”

“It's an incredible honor to be selected as the Organization of the Year,” Knudsen said. “What an exciting season both on and off the field; the dedication and pride shown by the players, staff and the community was next level!”

On the field, Vermont started the summer 12-18 before going 23-2 in July and 30-6 over the final 36 games to clinch the FCBL regular-season title place by 2.5 games. From there, the Lake Monsters went 4-1 during the playoffs to win the second title in the franchise’s 27-year history, eliminating Worcester from title contention for the first time ever before besting Pittsfield.

With FCBL Co-Manager of the Year Pete Wilk and Director of Baseball Operations Morgan Brown at the helm of the on-field operation, the Lake Monsters turned over a significant portion of their roster during the summer. Despite 60 different players wearing the uniform, the team went 42-24 and set a new FCBL single-season record for victories. Its 14-game win streak to begin July also became a new league best.

Several players earned postseason honors including FCBL Pitcher of the Year Patrick Harrington (Assumption) and Top Pro Prospect Ethan Anderson (Virginia), the latter who was also a Most Valuable Player finalist after hitting .427 in only 29 games. Harrington and Anderson were both named to the All-FCBL First Team, while Harrington’s co-ace Billy Oldham (Eastern Connecticut State) earned All-FCBL Second Team honors.

“When we bought the team we had no staff, no roster and no coach,” English said. “The first call I made was to Morgan Brown and I said, ‘You’re our Director of Baseball Operations.’ To our great fortune, he said yes. He and Pete Wilk built a process where our players came through with a “next up” attitude and that brought home the Futures League Championship.

“But it was our fearless leader and Executive of the Year C.J. Knudsen and his incredible staff that guided us through enormous challenges, bringing all that is great about community baseball back to Burlington. C.J.’s passion and love of Burlington and the Lake Monsters has laid the foundation for years of future success.”

Prior to returning to the Green Mountain State in 2021, Knudsen held the same title of Senior Vice President for 10 years for the Connecticut Tigers, who rebranded as the Norwich Sea Unicorns in 2019 and joined the Lake Monsters as first-time FCBL members this year.

Schermerhorn was Norwich’s GM and oversaw its transition to the FCBL before reuniting with Knudsen in Vermont during the summer. Until Schermerhorn arrived in Burlington, Knudsen had been the Lake Monsters’ lone senior front office staff member since the team’s re-launch.

“C.J. is a class act and we are lucky to have his expertise and passion for the game as part of the Futures League,” Paolucci said. “His ability to rally the Lake Monster fan base around our summer collegiate model has not received enough attention. The fans did not have much time to get used to the league and they were uncertain as to what type of entertainment value we would bring when Chris English purchased the team. C.J. became the day-to-day face of the organization and made those fans feel right at home.”

The 2021 season served as a homecoming for Knudsen who was previously Vermont’s Assistant GM from 1997-99 and GM from 2000-09. A graduate of South Burlington’s Rice Memorial High School and Keene State College, Knudsen also earned New York-Penn League Executive of the Year honors in 2003 and received the Robert Julian Community & Baseball Service Award in 2006. 

“I am so very honored to be recognized as the Executive of the Year,” Knudsen said. “The hard work, time and talent displayed by everyone at the organization propelled us to the top, and I wish to thank all of them for being part of this incredible season.”

“I have been fortunate enough to know and work alongside C.J. for 12 years and 11 seasons. He is the definition of a first-class leader and this award could not be more well deserved,” Schermerhorn said. “It was a very special season in Burlington and the groundwork for that magic was laid by C.J.’s hard work and leadership in putting together an incredible reintroduction season that will be built on for years to come.”

The FCBL’s Executive of the Year Award is named in honor of former North Shore Navigators GM Bill Terlecky, a veteran of more than four decades in the game of baseball who lost his battle with cancer in 2019.