Following the announcement in late May that the Savannah Sand Gnats are moving to Columbia, S.C., for the 2016 season (read the story here) I set a goal of seeing the Sand Gnats before they left town. With the goal of seeing the Sand Gnats before they moved, I made a three-day trek and saw the Augusta GreenJackets (read about it here) before catching the Sand Gnats at Grayson Stadium.
So when arriving at Grayson Stadium for the rest of the 2015 season fans are greeted by this image…
The Sand Gnats fenced off the entrance plaza to create more entertainment space, so it’s difficult to see the stadium marquee until fans are about to walk into the ballpark.
|Closeup of the stadium marquee.|
Originally built in 1926 and named Municipal Stadium, the ballpark was devastated by a hurricane in 1940. Spanish-American War veteran General William L. Grayson helped raise the funds to rebuild the facility, which with the aid of Works Progress Administration (WPA) workers underwent a renovation in 1941. The newly rebuild stadium was renamed in honor of Grayson’s efforts, and commemorated with a plaque.
|Plaque renaming the stadium for William Grayson.|
As I entered I asked employees for suggestions and the most common answer was to hit the grill in the plaza. However, as I was attending a game on a Wednesday the grill was closed. Apparently it is only open on the weekends, but the menu did not look particularly unique so I didn’t feel liked I missed out on anything great.
Nor was I particularly hungry because I had a delicious hamburger and a flight of beer at Moon River Brewing Company in downtown. So I opted to walk around the stadium a bit before settling in to watch the first few innings of action.
While exploring I got photos of the first half standings, as the Sand Gnats were in the hunt for the division title and playoff berth when I was there.
|The kind of blurry and tough to read South Atlantic League Southern Division first half standings entering play on June 17.|
Nearby the standings were the starting lineups, so I got a photo of them as well.
|The starting lineups are important, but money wins out.|
The obstructed view of the starting lineups kind of illustrates some of the issues with Grayson Stadium. There’s no doubt a stadium needs an ATM, but it needs access to a phone line to complete transactions so other important things like the starting lineups have to take a backseat to taking care of fans.
After exploring the stadium some, I took my seat behind home plate. As usual, I got a picture of the first pitch from behind home plate.
|Savannah Sand Gnats starting pitcher Martires Arias delivers the first pitch
to Asheville Tourists center fielder Omar Carrizales.
After exploring the food options and consulting a few employees for feedback I decided to get a bite at the Philly Cheese stand, which is just past the gift shop on the first base line.
|The Philly Cheese stand.|
Savannah is not known for its Philly cheese steaks nor are the Sand Gnats a Philadelphia Phillies affiliate, so I don’t have a good rationale for why they have the stand except that it’s a popular food item with mass appeal.
What made my choice unique is that I did not opt for just a standard Philadelphia cheese steak. The Sand Gnats offer a steak and chicken option, and something called The Godfather. I opted for the latter, which consists of an Italian sausage topped with either the steak or chicken variety. I went for the traditional choice and had my Italian sausage coated in a steak variety.
|The Godfather cheese steak.|
The Godfather may have nothing to do with Savannah, but it was a delicious surprise. The seasonings used to cook the steak mixed well with the cheese and Italian sausage, which I chose to top off with yellow mustard and ketchup. Even “if” the grill had been open I would still choose The Godfather over those offerings. It is definitely the best food item at Grayson Stadium.
Shortly after finishing my Godfather, the Sand Gnats mascot Gnate the Gnat came by. So I quickly had my photo taken with him.
|Me with Gnate the Gnat.|
One plus and minus of Grayson Stadium is the net that extends all the way around the seating bowl. It means fans are protected from any bats or balls entering the stands, but it also means taking clear action photos is incredibly difficult. So I did not take many action photos and had to venture far down the right field line to the colossal party deck called the Southern Comfort Station.
|View of the Southern Comfort Station from the third base side.|
So what did I get to actually see from the SoCo Station? The home team bullpen abuts it, so I got to see some young kids asking some Sand Gnats for their autographs. I also got a nice view of the scoreboard…
|View of the scoreboard from the Southern Comfort Station.|
and a decent view of the picnic area along the third base line, which is cordoned off from the field of play by a chain-link fence and netting.
|View of game action and the picnic area along the third base line.|
After my photos from the SoCo Station I walked over to the picnic area so I could get some more photos. Aside from the photo of the Southern Comfort Station, I was able to get a picture of the seating bowl and the elevated press box.
|View of the elevated press box and seating bowl from the third base line.|
After taking pictures to show off the seating bowl and the amenities at the stadium, I returned to my seat to watch the action. Although Savannah threatened in the bottom of the 9th, the game went to extra innings. Sitting right behind the net, I got one last action photo in the bottom of the 12th with Asheville reliever Yoely Bello on the mound.
|Asheville Tourists reliever Yoely Bello facing Savannah Sand Gnats center fielder John Mora in the 12th inning.|
Ultimately the Tourists pushed across two runs in the top of the 13th inning and held on for a victory. I missed the final inning because I had sightseeing plans early the next morning, but thoroughly enjoyed my time as Historic Grayson Stadium. The craft beer selection covered a wide spectrum that included local beers like Southbound’s Scattered Sun Belgian Wit and SweetWater’s 420. There was not a huge variety of food, but The Godfather was delicious and assuredly the items off the grill would be equally good.
Grayson Stadium definitely shows some wear it is still a great venue to watch baseball. Despite reports that a collegiate-wood bat Coastal Plain League team will move to Savannah in 2016 (read more here) fans should go out and watch the Sand Gnats this season. If I lived in the vicinity I would definitely check out the Sand Gnats on a regular basis.
Final Score: Asheville 4, Savannah 2 (12 innings)