Norwich Sea Unicorns will not be affiliated with Detroit Tigers
Norwich — If the Norwich Sea Unicorns remain as a minor league baseball team affiliated with a major league team, it will not be with the Detroit Tigers, team officials learned Wednesday.
The Sea Unicorns, formerly the Connecticut Tigers, have been affiliated with the Detroit Tigers since the team moved to Norwich in spring of 2010 and prior to that in Oneonta, N.Y.
But with an overhaul of the minor league system underway that includes the elimination of 42 affiliated minor league teams, the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday announced its four affiliates, with Norwich not on the list. The Norwich team learned of the decision through a Detroit news release and social media posts, Norwich Sea Unicorns Senior Vice President C.J. Knudsen said.
“We are extremely disappointed by the news that we will no longer be affiliated with the Detroit Tigers,” the Sea Unicorns said in a statement Wednesday. “Dodd Stadium is a first-class facility energized by first-class fans both young and old that deserve the ability to fall in love with the game, either for the first time or all over again.”
Knudsen said that as the restructuring continues, the Sea Unicorns’ top priority effort will be to secure an affiliation with another major league team. If that is unsuccessful, the team would pursue “all options,” including a possible independent minor league team or a wooden bat, summer collegiate team.
“We are in the process of evaluating all options in hopes to be able to continue to provide quality, affordable baseball for our great fans for years to come,” the team statement said. “As soon as there is an update, we will share it with you immediately.”
The Sea Unicorns remain in operation, with front office staff at Dodd Stadium and online sales of team merchandise at www.goseaunicorns.com.
Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom also expressed disappointment at Detroit's announcement and said the city supports the Sea Unicorns' effort to secure another MLB affiliation.
Nystrom emphasized that Dodd Stadium is a high-quality, minor league facility located halfway between New York and Boston and in close proximity to the world's largest casinos.
Nystrom said he spoke with Knudsen, City Manager John Salomone and city Corporation Counsel Michael Driscoll on Wednesday about the team's status and the city's lease with the team for Dodd Stadium.
The City Council will discuss the legal issues regarding the team and the lease in executive session at an upcoming meeting.
Nystrom also thanked Knudsen and Sea Unicorns owner Miles Prentice for keeping the team front office staff intact during the 2020 season shutdown and the current uncertainty.
The team was renamed in December 2019 after securing a new 10-year lease with the City of Norwich that included plans to include the city in its name. But two months after the lease was signed in August, the minor league baseball world was rocked with news that Major League Baseball was planning a major restructuring, reducing the number of minor league affiliates to no more than four per major league team, eliminating the short-season leagues, including the Sea Unicorns’ New York-Penn League, and cutting in half the amateur player draft that fed those teams.
Nystrom also noted again that Major League Baseball was the first in line to approve the new 10-year lease between the city and the then-Connecticut Tigers just two months before the restructuring plan was made public.
Last week, Major League Baseball announced that four of the former New York-Penn League teams had joined a new six-team unaffiliated minor league called the MLB Draft League with amateur players considered to be potential top draft picks. The Sea Unicorns are not part of that league, as Knudsen said the team continues to pursue a full major league team affiliation.
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