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Bringing Baseball Fever Back To Norwich

Bringing Baseball Fever Back To NorwichTufts graduate and Norwich Navigators head honcho Louis DiBella is in the midst of revamping his newly-purchased minor league baseball team in a major way.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [08.23.05] If you give them wigs…they will come. That was the theory hatched by Norwich Navigators owner Louis J. DiBella, who arranged for the first 1,000 fans at last Thursday night’s game to receive fake, frizzy, salt-and-pepper headgear, modeled after the mane of sports celebrity Don King. He also produced the man behind the famous hairdo, who greeted fans, signed autographs and threw out the first pitch.

Bringing longtime boxing buddy King to Connecticut’s Dodd Stadium, home of the minor league Norwich Navigators, was just one piece of DiBella’s plan to generate a buzz about his struggling minor league team that would help bring fans back to the ballpark.

“It’s going to take a while and some effort before we get this stadium packed,” DiBella, a 1982 graduate of Tufts, told the Norwich Bulletin. “But when you have someone like Don King -- and everyone in the world knows who he is -- it helps bring people [to the stadium].”

King’s appearance enticed 3,162 fans to come out to the ballpark, which can accommodate nearly double that number, according to the Bulletin. Through similar promotions, DiBella hopes to beef up attendance at the games, since the San Francisco Giants affiliate drew fewer fans than any other team in the Eastern League last year, the Associated Press reported.

DiBella, who earned a law degree before starting his career in sports entertainment, took over the team this year. The Brooklyn, N.Y., native and former HBO Sports executive also runs DiBella Entertainment, which represents prizefighters and develops TV programming, films and documentaries.

But, for the past four months, DiBella’s focus has been in the baseball arena, where he is on a mission to market the Navigators to local residents and tourists.

“People will learn,” he told The Day, “if they come to Dodd Stadium, they’re going to have fun.”

Aside from King’s appearance, DiBella has tried to drum up interest in the team by announcing a contest to pick a new, more “regional” name for the Navigators, he told The Day. He is also offering free admission for this year’s remaining games to anyone who buys a season ticket for 2006 as well as a chance to win a trip to Giants spring training in Arizona, according to the newspaper.

Beyond ramping up the team’s marketing efforts, DiBella is also determined is to improve efficiency in the main office.

“The general vibe in that office is going to change,” DiBella said in an interview with The Day. “The people who work in that front office are going to know they have a boss,” he added.

And, with all of the different pieces of his strategy in place, he has no doubt he’ll be successful at turning the team around.

“I wouldn’t have spent nine million bucks if I didn’t think I could do this,” DiBella told the Associated Press. “I’m not going to fail to keep baseball in eastern Connecticut.”











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