Reader: Don't sweat the Sand Gnats 


Regarding your recent column on Grayson Stadium and the Savannah Sand Gnats:

I recently moved here from Boston, and before that spent most of my life in New Hampshire. When I was an infant my hometown, about 35 miles away from Fenway Park, supported a Brooklyn Dodgers farm team that included Don Newcombe and Roy Campanella. 

The local stadium hosted many semipro teams, and in the '80s began hosting A and AA teams for the L.A. Angels and Pittsburgh Pirates (Roger Clemens appeared as an opponent). 

Like Savannah, the facility was old and offered few amenities, particularly the locker rooms.  The Red Sox wanted to move their AA team from New Britain, CT (another inadequate field), closer to Boston, but the City of Nashua balked at the necessary upgrades. 

Minor league baseball is a game of musical chairs, as you well know. Team affiliations, locations, and ownerships change yearly. Some, like the Toledo Mud Hens are iconic, along with the Pawsox of Rhode Island. Most however are fleeting, just like the Nashua Dodgers of the late 1940s.

Once in a while, a minor league deal works out. Portland, Maine, built a stadium in 2003 and have kept the Red Sox AA team, the Sea Dogs, ever since. 

Likewise the Manchester, NH, Fisher Cats stadium was privately built for the AA Toronto affiliate, which enjoys a good patronage. 

So to Savannah. Your comment that the team is inconsequential is right on target. Whatever Savannah does will not have much say in the team's affiliation, and blowing a fortune on a second stadium makes little sense. 

Granted, there are many school teams that can use a stadium increasing occupancy and revenue, but two facilities will obviate that idea. Upgrading the existing facility at Daffin Park can be done, be it the field, clubhouse, concessions, and parking. Just forget any idea of sky boxes or club seating, it will not last. 

There's no better example than Fenway Park itself. After years of speculation and ideas, the current Sox ownership chose to upgrade that grand old bandbox to the pleasure of its fans.

Savannah need only support the team. Franchises will come and go. An upgraded stadium coupled with patronage will always appeal to ownership of minor league teams regardless of the level or affiliation. 

By the way, the Nashua stadium is still in use, but with independent league ball. Eighteen miles south of the Manchester Blue Jays Park, and 14 north of the short-season Sox affiliate Lowell Spinners, and an hour from Fenway, it could not compete. Savannah can.

Jim Moher


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