By Owen Shadrick
In a short period of time, the Norwich Sea Unicorns went from a New York-Penn League member and Detroit Tiger affiliate to a Futures League team … in a matter of one month.
On April 27, the Sea Unicorns officially announced that they were joining the league. With the New Britain Bees already established in Connecticut, Norwich will be the second Connecticut team in the league and create a fun in-state rivalry during the season. Norwich was also the second new member of the Futures League after the Vermont Lake Monsters announced their entrance just a month earlier.
The process was a difficult one, but Norwich finally got here.
“Going back over a year...it came to fruition we would no longer be affiliated with a Major League Baseball franchise,” said Dave Schermerhorn, the general manager of the Sea Unicorns. “Our ownership group started exploring options to continue to provide baseball to Norwich and southeastern Connecticut and it became pretty clear the Futures League was the perfect fit.”
The Sea Unicorns were previously known as the Connecticut Tigers. The team held a contest and heard from members of their organization, but their main goal was to put Norwich back in the name, and they did.
Also, it is very hard to forget a team name like “Sea Unicorns.”
They also had to deal with the COVID restrictions, helping to further the bond between the team and city officials. General Manager Dave Schermerhorn did everything he could to make sure the Sea Unicorns were going to be able to play summer baseball.
“It has been a long road to get here since March of 2020,” said Schermerhorn. “We always had a really strong relationship with the town of Norwich, ever since we got here in 2010. Through everything that happened with the contraction of Minor League Baseball, our relationship got only stronger with a common goal of keeping baseball in Norwich. We just signed a new lease to continue to provide a great product on the field as well as off of it to the people of Norwich.”
The Sea Unicorns are bringing back some familiar Futures Leaguers from Connecticut. Spencer Fox, from Manchester, CT, appeared in 19 games with the Bristol Blues in 2019, going 21 innings and striking out 41 batters. He appeared in three games for the Westfield Starfires last summer. Fox’s Southern Connecticut State teammate, Tommy Hughes, also returns to the league. Hughes appeared in 11 games last season for New Britain, striking out 14 in 12 innings and also pitched for Bristol in 2019, posting a 5.25 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 36 innings.
There are also some new notable faces to look out for this season in Norwich. Colton Bender, from Quinnipiac University, will be a nice addition behind the plate. Bender is hitting .266 in 28 games with three home runs, seven doubles, 15 runs and 19 RBI. Eastern Connecticut’s John Mesagno will also provide a spark, as he is hitting .378 this season with 56 hits, 11 homers and 46 RBI this spring. They will bring veteran leadership to the Sea Unicorns as seniors.
New manager Devin Belenski spoke very highly of the roster and is ready to go to work with his new team.
“I am very excited about this talented group of guys,” said Belenski. “We have players that range from incoming freshmen to veterans that have extended their playing career into their graduate degrees. The season is right around the corner and this group is eager to get going. I am excited to watch all the talent we have on our roster this summer compete on the field and get better each and every day.”