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.