The official start of spring was March 20th, but to baseball fans, the real start of spring is opening day for baseball! Most major and minor league teams will be starting their season on Wednesday, April 4, 2012 or Thursday, April 5, 2012. There is always excitement in the air on opening day for baseball. Hope springs eternal for every team to have a successful season and to make it to the playoffs in September and October. Savannah’s very own Sand Gnats, the Class A minor league affiliate of the New York Mets, will open up their 2012 season on Thursday against the Augusta Greenjackets at 7:05pm at The Historic Grayson Stadium.
Baseball has been a part of the history of Savannah dating back to 1886! The teams played in various places around town until Municipal Stadium was originally built in 1926. The Savannah teams played in the Southern League. However, the league was suspended because of The Great Depression. The South Atlantic League started again in 1936. The current stadium was re-built in 1941 after sustaining heavy damage during a hurricane in 1940. General William Grayson, a Spanish American War veteran, led the rehabilitation of the stadium and in 1941 the stadium was renamed after General Grayson. There have been many changes in teams, names and major league affiliates for Savannah teams over the years. The Savannah Sand Gnats were created in 1996 as an affiliate for the Los Angeles Dodgers. The mascot of “Gnat” was created from a contest by the citizens of Savannah. The mascot and logo still continues to be popular today, even being worn by many celebrities and being shown on television shows. In 2007, the Sand Gnats became a Class A minor league team for the New York Mets. Today, the Sand Gnats play in Historic Grayson Stadium. There have been a few more renovations over the years, but now the stadium can hold over 4000 fans.
This year’s team is hoping to repeat the trip to the Southern Atlantic League playoffs in the fall. The Sand Gnats were in a 3 way tie for top in the Southern Atlantic League Southern Division in 2011 but lost in the playoffs to the Greensboro Grasshoppers. The New York Mets announced new management to the Sand Gnats earlier this month. The new head coach is Luis Rojas, pitching coach is Frank Viola with additional coaching from Joel Fuentes.
The Sand Gnats are very community oriented with events helping local organizations throughout the baseball season. Every Wednesday is designated Pack the Park for Charity to help local Savannah area organizations raise money. There is entertainment and fun for the entire family including kids running the bases after selected games. There are fireworks after every Saturday night game. Each day during the week offers some special discount or give-away to attend the games. Check the promotions schedule for all of the details. Also, the Sand Gnats are on Facebook and Twitter. Go Sand Gnats!!