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    Friday, May 24, 2024

    Notably Norwich: Glenn Carberry taking another swing for Dodd Stadium

    The Connecticut Tigers warm up during a team practice on media day at Dodd Stadium in Norwich on June, 15, 2016. (Tim Cook/The Day)
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    Glenn Carberry, with his daughter, Caroline, at a Defenders game at Dodd Stadium in Norwich.

    Vision and determination.

    They are the human qualities that created Norwich's gems over the years, some of them dating back to the mid-19th century that are still paying dividends to the city and its people and will continue for decades, perhaps even centuries to come.

    Today, having already displayed both vision and determination to bring minor league baseball to Norwich 30 years ago, retired attorney and city native Glenn Carberry is working again to try to bring it back. As with other Rose City gems, it will require some financial support from the city. However, like the others, it could grow and provide a long-term return on the investment.

    Think it can't happen? That's what people thought when Carberry embarked on what many thought was a quixotic effort to attract the New York Yankees' AA affiliate here from Albany. Nobody was laughing a few years later, though, when he and a team of local heavy hitters (no pun intended) put together a plan that produced a $9.8 million baseball complex in the Norwich Business Park and brought the Yankees' affiliate here as the Norwich Navigators.

    Much of the cost was borne by the state and private investors. Like then, Carberry has no stake in this latest venture other than his love for baseball.

    We know the history: the Navigators moved, replaced by the San Francisco Giants' AA affiliate, then the Detroit Tigers A affiliate. After COVID-19 and the elimination of dozens of minor league teams, Norwich was left out in the cold

    When I think of Norwich's gems, the first that comes to mind is Norwich Free Academy, which was founded by the Rev. John Putnam Gulliver. It opened in 1854 and provides students from the city, nine surrounding "partner communities," even students from other parts of the world, with a unique, diverse, high-level education.

    In 1893, The William W. Backus Hospital was founded by William Wolcott Backus and William A. Slater (of NFA's Slater Museum origin). Today, it is a sparkling model of modern, comprehensive healthcare for the region as a part of the high-quality Hartford Healthcare system.

    Deacon Joseph Otis, a retired merchant, founded the Otis Library in 1850, buying the library's first books and establishing a foundation that would fund it into the future.

    The best comparison to Carberry's latest push might be the effort in the 1970s by then-City Manager Charlie Whitty to have the city purchase Norwich Golf Club. There were skeptics, as not everyone plays or is even interested in golf, but with vocal support from residents like Bill Donovan and Gene Sullivan, the city bought the golf course, which bears many Donald Ross architectural qualities and thrives today with a robust membership.

    Purchasing the golf course was a good decision. While fewer people use it than, say, NFA, Backus Hospital or Otis Library, it provides an important quality-of-life value as do beautiful Mohegan Park and the Norwich Ice Arena, both of which are also supported by the city.

    With Major League Baseball expanding from 30 to 32 teams in the next two or three years and with eight minor-league affiliate communities in the eastern United States underperforming, Carberry believes conditions are right for baseball's return to Norwich if city officials are willing to support it. The two new MLB franchises alone will create 10 more minor league teams.

    With budget challenges like any other community, it's a difficult decision for the city, which has supported Dodd Stadium through its municipal authority. The cost to the city has been an annual average of less than $90,000, which isn't bad, considering more than 4 million people have attended games there since it opened in 1994.

    There are tangible benefits to supporting the proposal. A minor league franchise creates jobs, directly and indirectly, and supports the local economy. In addition to baseball games, the stadium is an excellent venue with ample parking for special events, ranging from car shows and health fairs to concerts and other fundraising events that - like baseball - support local causes and provide wholesome community entertainment.

    Having a Major League Baseball affiliate back in Norwich would be a quality-of-life feather in the community's hat. When city officials try to attract businesses here, when those businesses are trying to attract top-performing employees, and when Realtors are trying to sell homes here, they can point to NFA, Backus, Otis Library, the DPU, Mohegan Park, the golf course, business park, the senior center, the ice arena, the downtown marina, rich history, and proximity to Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods.

    And on a warm summer evening, wouldn't it be nice to take the family to an affordable minor league baseball game to see tomorrow's baseball stars?

    Many of the local power brokers Carberry enlisted to bring minor league baseball to Norwich are now either retired or deceased. One who is still around and can help influence the decision again is Peter Nystrom, then a state representative who is now serving his final term as Norwich's mayor. Helping to restore baseball to Norwich would enhance what is already an impressive political legacy for Nystrom.

    Here's hoping he and other Norwich officials will move Carberry's venture forward after he makes his case to the City Council on Monday, May 20, so minor league baseball can return to Dodd Stadium, and moms, dads, kids, and other guys and gals can take in all the excitement at an affordable price.

    Play ball!

    Bill Stanley, a former vice president of Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, grew up in Norwich.

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