Saturday, August 15, 2015

Greensboro Grasshoppers 4 at Savannah Sand Gnats 6 (South Atlantic League) - August 14, 2015


Whenever I hear about another minor league team relocating, I make plans to visit that ballpark if I have never been. So when the Savannah Sand Gnats announced that they would be moving up the road to Columbia, I knew I had to make a pilgrimage to Grayson Stadium, one of the last old stadiums in the minors.



There is no reason to go into a detailed description as there are only a few home games left. The stadium was originally built in 1926, rebuilt in 1941 (see the banner below) after a hurricane, and renovated in 2009. It is not clear where this ranks on the list of oldest minor league baseball stadiums. I've seen Asheville's McCormick Field listed as the oldest (opened 1924), but Vermont's Centennial Field opened in 1906 and was renovated in 1922. I am not sure what criteria is used to determine the age of the stadium, but regardless, Grayson Stadium is old!



The stadium is located in Daffin Park on the east side of Savannah. There is plenty of free parking around the park. though the first base lot is definitely in range of foul balls. The shot below shows the three seat types: four rows of red box seats ($10), two sections of orange reserved seats ($9) or general admission benches ($8). The entire seating bowl is protected by netting, so the box seats are the best option if you can get in the first row.



It is humid in the summer so the roof has several fans spinning in an attempt to keep the fans from sweating. In other words, cooling fans cooling fans.



The concourse is small but the archways add a unique element.



The view from the cheap seats:



There is a large restaurant area down the left field line known as the Southern Comfort Station. Three decks are open to the public if a private party has not been booked, and this was a popular area with more food choice and cheap drinks. This is the only place without netting, though the view to the plate is not that good.



The mascot is Gnate T. Gnat, who will soon be retired but still keeps a wistful smile on his face. Freddy T. Firefly is already being designed I am sure.



The park will be used by the Coastal Plain League, a collegiate wood-bat league, starting next season, so if you don't get a chance to see the Sand Gnats, you can still see the old ballyard in 2016.

The Game

A battle of insects tonight as the Greensboro Grasshoppers (Miami's affiliate) were in town to take on the Sand Gnats (NY Mets). To honour this buggy battle, the mosquitos of Savannah were out in force too, and the umpires had to apply bug spray before the game.

The Gnats got on the board in the first. With a runner on second, Wuilmer Becera (a throw-in from Toronto in the Dickey trade, below) launched a homer over the left field fence. Eudor Garcia (4th round, 2014) followed with another no-doubter to deep right and it was 3-0 Savannah before most fans had taken their seats.



Those were the only runs until the seventh. Chris Flexen (14th, 2012) was the surprise starter for Savannah and he kept Greensboro guessing, scattering 5 hits in 6.1 innings. The Sand Gnats added a run in the 7th when Becera hit into a fielders choice with runners on second and third. Flexen was in line for the win, but reliever Christian Montgomery (11th, 2011) allowed the Grasshoppers back into it. With two out and a runner on second, Montgomery gave up a single and two doubles that made it 4-3. He was replaced by Cameron Griffin who promptly gave up a game-tying triple before escaping the jam.

Extra innings were a sudden possibility, but in the bottom of the 8th, Tomas Nido (8th, 2012) singled and Joe Tuschak (6th, 2011) doubled him home. Becera singled him home later on for his 4th RBI on the evening, thus garnering him my Player to Watch Award and Savannah had some insurance. Griffin remained in for the 9th but injured himself with one out, and Alberto Baldonado made an emergency relief appearance, getting two quick outs for his sixth save as Savannah won 6-4. The manual scoreboard provides the details, though this was taken in the top of the 9th and Greensboro added another hit.



Notes

The giveaway tonight was a replica of Grayson Stadium. One of the coolest things I have ever received at a sporting event.



Next Up

I'm in Greenville, home of the Drive who host Charleston tonight. Once again, check back tomorrow for a recap.

Best,

Sean

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