Minor League Roadtrip: Savannah Sand Gnats (Now Bananas)



In 2015 I started going on baseball road trips with my vacation time, and I chose to go on a southern tour down to Georgia and back to New Jersey because summer 2015 was the last summer that the Savannah Sand Gnats would be home to a Mets affiliated team. (I also cannot overstate how much I want to go back to Savannah to watch the Savannah Bananas play there, but more on that later).

For those following my trip, I went to this game two days after watching the Drive play at Greenville (read about that here). Savannah is a beautiful city. Unbelievably pretty, green, etc. Also on my road trip that included southeastern TN, Columbia SC, Charleston SC, Raleigh NC, north western NC, Norfolk VA and Richmond VA, Savannah was the only city I went to that didn’t feel like it was still fighting the Civil War. If you’re reading this from the South, I grew up in Baltimore, MD and it’s still jarring, and culturally distant experience to travel through towns with an overwhelming amount of Civil War monuments. If you love American Revolution history, there’s a lot to see and learn in the more touristy parts of the city. The stadium itself is not in the tourist area of Savannah. If you are road tripping, this provides a great opportunity to you: go to the tourist stuff during the day and stay at a hotel near the stadium at night. You’ll get to see all of the historic Savannah sites during the ay and pay a much cheaper hotel rate at night. I went a few museums in town but the best recommendation I can make is to visit all of the town squares. They’re phenomenal.

Anyway, about the game.

Historic Grayson Stadium is my favorite type of Minor League Ballpark (for Maryland readers – think Hagerstown Suns), it had tons of wood, an outfield shaped to fit the land the stadium fits, mostly bleacher seating and a focus on the game itself. I moved around quite about during the game (actually a double header). I might be biased to old stadiums which is why I fell in love with Grayson but this was the experience I have in my mind when I think minor league baseball. There wasn’t over the top merchandising, outfield advertisements, etc. The outfield opens up to trees in the surrounding neighborhood (the stadium is embedded in the neighborhood, not an exit off a highway). Another way to put this: the Sand Gnats and Bannanas franchises know they have something special with Historic Grayson Stadium. When you go, the stadium and the baseball on the field is the star, which is how it should be.

The Savannah Sand Gnats were just missing the zaney that usually comes with minor league baseball. The rest of the experience was a perfect, classic, americana feel to the game. This is why I want to come back to see the Savannah Bananas. The stadium already has that old-time feel and the name/look of the Savannah Bananas embodies that goofier side of minor league baseball / college / not major league. When we think about the endearing pull of going to a baseball game that doesn’t involve major league teams, we think about closeness to the field, traditional look and feel to the ballpark, attention to the game not to merchandising everything, and things that don’t take themselves to seriously.

I always enjoy a minor league games however Savannah was different. Savannah is on the level of “Must Visit” minor league stadiums.

Minor League Roadtrip: The Greenville Drive

gdwholeThe Greenville Drive were my first successful minor league stop on a baseball road trip in July 2015 (I was supposed to be at the Bristol Pirates the previous night, but the weather had another idea). While the weather wasn’t the greatest that night, I was stoked to see Yoan Moncado play.

Greenville is located in northwest South Carolina. I was coming from Bristol, VA/TN, and spent the day hiking in the Smokey Mountains before making the trip south Greenville. I spent so much time in the Smokey Mountains that I couldn’t do anything around the Greenville before game time. Next to the stadium is the Shoeless Joe Jackson Museum, only open on Saturdays, so keep that in mind when visiting. I wish I could tell you how the museum was, but I was in town during the week.

The Greenville Drive are a feeder to the Red Sox and their stadium boasts a “mini” Green Monster in the outfield (as shown in the picture above). As a stadium, it boasted several places to eat, including bbq (this being my first time in South Carolina, I got that) and a bar deck with TV’s. The stadium also had quite the selection of microbrews from SC and the Grenville area. In general, the team and the stadium are new, and it feels that way. There are areas to go when it rains and still watch the game as well.

The stadium is also embedded into the city of Greenville. If you are a baseball road tripper and are looking to walk to games, this was fantastic. I stayed at a hotel not too far away (about a half mile) and walked through a residential part of town. At the end of the game people were out in their yards and in normal southern hospitality expectations, talking to everyone walking by. The field opens up to new construction in the area that brought the feel of the “warehouse” at Camden Yards. It was nice looking but also felt like the outfield view was manufactured and not natural to the area. Compared to other minor league teams I’ve been too, Greenville is on the lower side in terms of advertisements everywhere in the outfield.

The only downside is, at least in 2015, they didn’t have as many of the goofy things that other minor league teams have (superfluous mascots, over-the-top food, ridiculous songs/traditions). However this didn’t take away from the night.

I had a fun time in Greenville watching the Drive and if you’re in the area, it’s a fun team to check out! The stadium is on the newer side and although I was there on a weeknight, the stadium was moderately filled (+ there was very bad weather in the forecast).

Do you know somewhere I should go this year? Let me know! Also check back each Monday as I post more of my journeys to watch minor league baseball across the nation.

Mets and the WBC Tracker 12/4 (And Crismatt Write-Up)

Whether you like it or not, the World Baseball Classic is back in what could be it’s final iteration (rumors have been flying around that unless it can get more profitable, this may be the last one, more on that on a later date).

The tournament is tough for players trying to get their stamina up for the season and stay healthy, while other players struggle to commit while they are in active position battles.

Mets Players Who Are In:

  • Asdrubal Cabrera – Venezuela
  • Nabil Crismatt – Columbia

Mets Players Who Are Out:

  • Noah Syndergaard


Nabil Crismatt has been in the Mets system since he was 17 in 2012, he finished his 2016 season at 21 years old and reaching as high as Binghamton. 2014 was first time in US in the Gulf Coast league and he spent all of 2015 with Kingsport. This year he posted a 3.19 ERA over 8 games and 31.0 innings in Brooklyn, then a 1.88 ERA over 28.2 innings in Columbia before his 1 start, (1 ER over 6.0 innings) in AA.

Minor League Baseball Roadtrips: Any Suggestions?

A couple of years ago I decided to embrace the part of my life that follows “Fever Pitch” and fully own that I love baseball, I love traveling for baseball, and it doesn’t matter that most of my time outside of teaching involves thinking/watching/playing/analyzing/writing baseball.

Since then, I’ve gone on two baseball themed road trips. In summer 2015, I drove to Savannah, GA and back since it was the last summer that the Sand Gnats would be a Mets team. I was fortunate enough on that trip to also see the Greenville Drive, Durham Bulls, Carolina Mudcats, Norfolk Tide, Richmond Squirrels, and the Trenton Thunder (+the Baltimore Orioles, and there was one rainout: the Bristol Pirates).

Last spring I drove out to Cleveland when the Mets went there and I picked up a few more minor league games with the Wilmington Blue Rocks, Altoona Curve, Binghamton Mets and the Harrisburg Senators (+a rainout in Syracuse).

I’m currently planning a few more trips for this year including an April drive down to Miami and an early July drive to St. Louis.

Who should I see on the way? Why should I see them?

Wild Card Game Preview: Giants vs Mets

The Mets and Giants took very different paths to get to tonight’s Wild Card show down in Queens. The Mets, the current National League Champions, were hampered by injuries all season that decimated their pitching staff and sidelined a sizable portion the bats. The Giants were running away with the division and then went into a massive slump that led them here. However, they have one of the best pitchers in the game. The Mets can make the same claim and the Mets had to run through some of the best pitchers in the game last year, so let’s dive into tonight’s match-up!

Syndergaard is 14-9 over 31 games and 30 starts this year over 183.2 innings with a 2.60 ERA. His final start of the season was strong as he held the Marlins to 1 ER over 6.0 innings while allowing 5 hits and striking out 8. Way back in May he had a rough start against the Giants on a dreary Sunday allowing 4 ER over 5.2 innings. Near the end of August he dominated the Giants holding them scoreless and to 2 hits over 8.0 innings. The Giants have the following numbers against Noah:

  • Belt 0-6, 3 BB
  • Crawford 2-8
  • Pagan 0-5
  • Panik 2-6
  • Posey 3-6
  • Span 0-6
  • Pence 1-5, HR
  • Blanco 0-3

The Mets bats draw Madison Bumgarner who is 15-9 over 34 starts and 226.2 innings this year with a 2.74 ERA, his best season of his career in terms of ERA (he also finished as season with 4 complete games for the 3rd time in a row). In his last two starts hehas allowed 8 ER over 13.1 innings while walking 2 and striking out 10. In his first time against the Mets he allowed no runs and 3 walks over 6.0 innings and at the end of August he allowed 4 ER over 5.0 innings (so basically the reverse of Thor). The Mets have the following numbers against Bumgarner:

  • Bruce 3-23, HR
  • K Johnson 7-20
  • Loney 2-13, 2B
  • Cespedes 3-10, 2B
  • Lagares 1-9
  • Reyes 3-9
  • Cabrera 3-7
  • Rene Rivera 2-3, 2B, HR
  • T.J. Rivera 2-3

Let’s Go Mets!

Game Preview: Mets @ Phillies

The Mets did it!

By winning yesterday, the Mets locked up the top Wild Card spot giving them one game in the regular season of “meaningless” baseball. (For those wondering, a Mets loss and a Giants win today will put them with the same record, but the Mets won the season series this year). Anyway, as the Mets await to find out if they are facing the Giants or the Cardinals, they will play one last regular season game.

Originally Syndergaard was going to start today, then it the word was if the Mets clinch, Syndergaard would pitch only one inning (which raised a lot of eyebrows). Instead the Mets are going with Gabriel Ynoa today, which makes way more sense. He’s 1-0 on the season over 9 games and 2 starts totaling 13.2 innings with a 7.90 ERA. His last start was on the 23rd and it was a short one as he allowed 5 hits and 2 ER over 2.0 innings (which was also his first time facing the Phillies). Last time out he allowed no runs and 3 hits over 1.2 innings against the Marlins). The Phillies have the following numbers against Ynoa:

  • Hernandez 1-2
  • Herrera 1-2
  • Quinn 1-2
  • Asche 1-1
  • Galvis 1-1
  • Hellickson 0-1
  • Howard 0-1

Jerad Eickhoff will make his last start of the season today. He was 11-14 over 191.1 innings with a 3.72 ERA. He’s coming off of a short but effective outing against the Braves where he allowed on hit, a solo homer, over 4.0 innings while striking out 5. He hasn’t faced the Mets since mid-July where he allowed 2 ER over 5 hits in 6.0 innings. The Mets have the following numbers against Jerad:

  • Granderson 2-14, 2B, HR
  • Conforto 5-12, 2 2B, HR
  • Cespedes 2-12, 3B
  • K Johnson 4-9, 2B
  • Cabrera 4-8, 2B
  • d’Arnaud 1-6, 2B
  • Duda 2-5, 2 2B

(That being said, I’ll be surprised to Granderson, Cespedes, Cabrera, etc in the lineup today).

Let’s Go Mets!

Game Preview: Mets @ Phillies

The could clinch a play off spot today! If the Mets win, they are in! If the Cardinals lose, the Mets are in! If the Mets win, and both the Cardinals and the Giants lose, the Mets have the top spot. Last night the Mets got another strong start from Gsellman and Bruce continued his hot streak as the Mets beat the Phillies 5-1.

This afternoon, Colon will get things started for the Mets. He’s 14-8 over 33 games and 32 starts and 186.2 innings with a 3.42 ERA. He’s coming off of his first rough start in a whole against the Marlins where he allowed 7 ER over 2.1 innings. It also was an extremely emotional game. His last rough start before that though was against the Phillies where he allowed 4 ER over 7.0 innings. The Phillies have the following numbers against Colon:

  • Howard 6-30, 3 HR
  • Galvis 5-25, 2B, HR
  • Herrera 5-25
  • Hernandez 5-19, 2B
  • Asche 4-17, 2 2B
  • Rupp 5-17
  • Bourjos 5-15, 2B, 3B
  • Franco 0-14

Phil Klein is sort-of getting the start today as the Phillies have already announced today as a bullpen day. Between the Rangers and the Phillies he’s 0-1 this season over 11 games and 1 start with an 8.22 ERA over 15.1 innings. He made a start for the Phillies against the Giants back on August 3rd where he pitched 5.0 innings allowing 4 ER. He faced the Mets last week where he allowed 3 ER over 0.1 innings in the 17-0 drubbing. The Mets have the following numbers on Phil:

  • Loney 0-2
  • Bruce 1-1
  • Cespedes 0-0, BB
  • Granderson 0-1
  • TJ Rivera 1-1

Let’s Go Mets!

Game Preview: Mets @ Phillies

The Cardinals and Giants both won on the Mets off day, so the race for the Wild Card just got a little tighter. The Mets still control their destiny though as they head into Philly for the last series of the season.

Robert Gsellman gets the nod for the Amazin’s. He’s 3-2 over 7 games and 6 starts this year with a 2.56 ERA over 38.2 innings. The Mets needed him to log innings in his last start to save the bullpen and he did, holding the Phillies scoreless over 7.0 innings while striking out 8 for his best start of his career. In his previous start against the Phillies he allowed 4 ER over 6.0 innings. The Phillies have the following numbers against Robert:

  • Altherr 1-5
  • Franco 1-5
  • Hernandez 1-6, 2 K
  • Herrera 0-4, 2 K
  • Galvis 2-5, 2B
  • Alfaro 1-3
  • Howard 0-3, 2 K

The Mets will get another look at Alec Asher who is 2-0 over 4 starts and 21.2 innings in 2016 with an ERA of 1.66. His last start against against the Mets where he allowed 4 runs, all unearned, over 5.0 innings (to put that in perspective, he’s allowed only 4 earned runs in his previous 3 major league starts). The Mets have the following numbers against Asher:

  • Cespedes 1-2
  • Conforto 1-3, HR
  • d’Arnaud 1-3
  • Duda 0-3
  • Granderson 1-2, 2B
  • Caberba 0-2
  • Reyes 1-2

Let’s Go Mets!

Game Preview: Mets @ Marlins

The Mets offense from Sunday came back last night as the Amazin’s beat the Marlins 12-1 and look to do it again today as they maintain a hold on the top Wild Card spot. Last night’s offense was punctuated by a positive performance, including a homer, from Jay Bruce, a monster shot from Cespedes, and a bases clearing double for Duda. Both the Giants and the Cardinals won last night so the race remains tight.

Seth Lugo gets the nod for the Amazin’s. He is 4-2 this season over 16 games, 7 starts, over 58.2 innings with a 2.61 ERA. He’s coming off of his first start allowing 3 ER since August 19th. In his last start against the Marlins, he allowed 2 ER over 6.0 innings. The Marlins have the following numbers against Lugo:

  • Ozuna 0-2
  • Prado 2-4, 2B
  • Realmuto 1-4
  • Yelich 1-4, HR
  • Gordon 1-3, 2B
  • Hechavarria 1-2
  • Scruggs 1-3

Jose Urena is 4-8 over 27 games and 11 starts pitching 78.2 innings with a 5.95 ERA. His last two starts have been rough allowing 12 ER over 5.0 innings (coming after 8.2 innings of shutout baseball against the Dodgers). His two starts against the Mets this year have been good, holding the Mets to 2 ER over 12.0 innings. The Mets have the following numbers against Jose:

  • Granderson 1-7
  • K Johnson 0-6
  • Loney 0-5
  • Reyes 3-6, 3B
  • Conforto 3-4, 2B
  • Cespedes 0-4
  • Flores 1-4, HR
  • Bruce 1-3, HR

Let’s Go Mets!

Game Preview: Mets @ Marlins

Last night was extremely emotional night for the Marlins as the Marlins were all introduced as #16 and both teams went out of the dugout for a moment of silence. The Marlins left a spot open for Fernandez and then signed the base of the mound. Then Dee Gordon took a pitch wearing Fernandez’s before going knocking a homer out of the park and breaking down rounding the bases. The Marlins ended the night back on the mound leaving their hats.

The Cardinals lost as well and the Giants didn’t play so for the most part the Wild Card Race took a night off, as it should.

Tonight Noah Syndergaard returns to the mound, missing a start due to strep throat over the weekend. On the season he is 13-9 over 30 games and 29 starts with 177.2 innings and 2.63 ERA. Syndergaard was on a great run of starts until his last start were he allowed 5 ER and 8 hits over 3.2 innings of work. He’s 1-0 over 2 starts against the Marlins this year allowing 3 ER over 14.0 innings. The Marlins have the following numbers against Thor:

  • Dietrich 3-7, 2B
  • Bour 2-6, 2B
  • Hechavarria 1-6
  • Ozuna 2-5, HR
  • Stanton 0-5
  • Yelich 2-6, 2B
  • Mathis 0-5

The Mets will face off with Tom Koehler tonight who is 9-12 over 31 starts and 170.0 innings with a 4.02 ERA. In his last three starts he’s 0-2over 14.0 innings allowing 10 runs, 9 earned. In his last start against the Mets he allowed 5 ER and 10 hits over 5.0 innings. The Mets have the following numbers against Koehler:

  • Duda 3-27, 2 2B
  • Granderson 7-29, 2 HR
  • Lagares 6-23, 3B
  • d’Arnaud 7-17, 2 2B, HR
  • Flores 6-18, 3 2B
  • Cespedes 6-17, 3 2B, 3B
  • Loney 3-12, 2B
  • Cabrera 5-10, 2 HR

Let’s Go Mets!