Navigators took steps in the right direction this season

North Shore outfielder Sean Lawlor became the first-ever Navigator to win FCBL Most Valuable Player this season. (Item File Photo)

LYNN — After a few disappointing seasons in a row, Director of Player Procurement Joe Gill and the North Shore Navigators’ front office knew they had to take a different approach going into the 2019 season.

“The last two seasons we finished in the cellar,” Gill said. “We knew that wasn’t good enough for us or for this community, so we took a step back and evaluated what we were doing. We reevaluated the culture, the programs we were drawing from for players, everything.”

That step back paid dividends for the Navigators this season, who finished 30-25 and earned the No. 3 seed in the Future Collegiate Baseball League playoffs. The playoff berth was the first for the Navigators since 2016, who ended their season with a loss to the Bristol Blues in the FCBL semifinal last week.

Gill was quick to point to Navigators manager Mike Odenwaelder for helping create a winning atmosphere in his first season at the helm. Odenwaelder was named FCBL Manager of the Year.

“A big part of the success was getting Mike as our manager,” Gill said. “Back when we hired him I was quoted saying he was a perfect guy to lead the team. He came in and proved that from day one.

“The last couple years it seemed like every decision we made fell flat on its face,” Gill said. “Getting a manager we believed in and being able to find success was huge. He rightfully won manager of the year and we’re hoping this is just the beginning.”

On the field the Navigators were just as successful with the players they brought in this summer. Outfielder Sean Lawlor (Flagler) became the first-ever Navigator to win FCBL Most Valuable Player and Beau Dana (Dickinson) earned FCBL Relief Pitcher of the Year honors. Infielder Andrew Olszak earned the Adam Keenan Sportsmanship and Scholarship Award.

“It definitely signals that we’re getting the type of players we want to have around,” Gill said. “It’s even nicer that they won those awards because it rewards them for their work all season. We had some tough losses this year. Sometimes after we those tough losses guys would stay and continue to work on their swings in the cages.”

That hard work day in and day out, up and down the roster was one factor that stood out to Gill this season.

“Everybody bought into the message,” Gill said. “Obviously the main point of the summer is to make sure everyone gets extra work for college. Along with that this team realized how special this community is and wanted to have success as well. I’ve been here nine years and this team bought into winning more than any other. They weren’t satisfied with anything less than winning.”

Off the field, Gill thanked the rest of the front office, including assistant general manager Ashley Laramie and general manager Bill Terlecky. Terlecky retired at the season’s conclusion after a 41-year baseball career. Ownership also played a key role in this season’s success. 

“We’re lucky to have one of the best general managers in Bill and a lot of his success is directly related to him,” Gill said. “Having a great staff has been crucial to the success of the team. There’s plenty of work that goes in from everyone. We buy into, ‘Everyone has their job and lets focus on doing that.’ I’d be remiss not to mention the ownership, Pat and Lindi Salvi of Chicago. We get all the support we need to run a successful program.”

The community also helped make it a memorable summer at Fraser Field and Gill hopes that it’s just the beginning of more to come.

“It was truly a great year,” Gill said. “Attendance had been going down and this year it was up. A statistic was just released saying that we were ranked 40th in the country for attendance in summer ball. That’s all thanks to the community. We look at it as we’re the local team and none of it happens without the community’s support. Now it’s all about retooling and focusing on getting better next summer.”

More Stories From Lynn