Brian’s At the Ballpark Archives

At the Ballpark – Grayson Stadium, Savannah, GA
July 5, 2009, 1:16 am
Filed under: 2009, Reviews
Grayson Stadium - click photo for more photos of this visit

Grayson Stadium - click photo for more photos of this visit

Savannah, Georgia is a port city steeped in history. The formation of the city took place in 1733, and Savannah has witnessed wars, colonization and numerous other events. The Historic District of Savannah is one of the nation’s oldest and largest.

Savannah also is home to a great sports history. The current home of the Sand Gnats, Grayson Stadium, is the oldest minor league facility still operating. The stadium was built in 1927 and renovated in 1940-41 after a hurricane. The facility has even earned the moniker “Historic” Grayson Stadium.

Does the stadium in 2009 live up to its history? Let’s find out.

Concessions: C

If you like “safe” (read: expected) ballpark concessions, you’ll be fine with the concessions at Grayson. The food is good quality (I had the pretzel with cheese), and the prices are not terrible. There is very little distinctive or unique to the area here, but what does exist is good.

A couple of things of note here: 1) Ice cream is pretty tough to come by in this park. Summer days and nights in Savannah are extremely hot – it was 95 degrees at game time for my visit – and you can only get ice cream at a couple of random stands, and the selection is not too varied. They do have snow cones as well, but it would be nice to see more availability throughout the park. 2) The vendors wandering the stands are very charismatic and nice. One vendor, Moses, was very cordial to the fans, and even offered to bring a fan back some napkins on his next visit. This was great to see, and I enjoyed the southern hospitality.

Atmosphere: C

Baseball is, for the most part, the main attraction in Savannah. There were a few between-innings diversions, including videos on the video board (though the audio from the videos was impossible to hear as the sound was distorted), fan boxing, the slingshot and the mascot race. Music between innings was not annoying.

The main problem with the between-innings entertainment was the on-field staffer working the microphone. I am unsure whether the sound on her microphone was turned up too high or she was just screaming that loudly into the microphone, but every time she spoke had me scrambling to cover my ears. Nothing personal, as she was very charismatic and seemed comfortable with the between-innings contestants, but fixing her sound would help.

Sight lines: F

A lot of this is really not the fault of the team or those running the stadium, but there are very few clear seats at Grayson Stadium. There is a net circling the virtual entirety of the seating area (something that you know from reading these pieces is a real annoyance to your humble correspondent), and the same thing that helped a ton on a warm July night – the roof covering the seating area – caused a hindrance to being able to view some of the action.

When sitting behind the first base dugout, there are a number of things that can take place on the field that are blocked due to the support beams for the roof and the light poles. If a ball is hit to most of center or right-center, forget it. If a ball is hit down the right field line, you will lose it as it approaches the corner. Even the visitors’ bullpen is tough to see, as it is down the left field line and behind a fence. Finally, there were post-game fireworks, and anyone under the roof had virtually no chance of seeing anything, as the fireworks were shot way above roof level. Again, this is not the fault of those who run the park, but just be prepared if you sit anywhere in the grandstand near the Sand Gnats’ dugout.

Parking: A

Grayson Stadium is situated within Savannah’s Daffin Park, and game parking is free, which is a big plus. Most of the parking is in a grassy, non-paved area, but the walk to the park is short and egress is not terrible.

Quality of baseball: C

This grade is somewhat deceiving, particularly when you realize that Asheville (Rockies) defeated the homestanding Sand Gnats (Mets) 5-1. However, this was nowhere near the Savannah team I saw defeat Augusta 18-3 earlier in the year, despite having a lot of the same players.

Asheville starter Juan Nicasio was dominant, striking out 12 in 6 2/3 innings. Savannah was held hitless from the 3rd to 8th innings. Savannah’s starter, Kyle Allen, also pitched well at times, but hit two men and walked two while allowing three earned runs on five hits in five innings. The Sand Gnats managed only four hits – all from their 4-5-6 spots. They managed to mount a small rally in the 9th, only to see the 7-8-9 hitters all strike out in succession to end the game.

Overall grade: C-

The stadium itself was fine, and the setting is excellent. The city park surrounding the field is a nice touch.

However, there were a lot of things (again, out of the stadium handlers’ control, for the most part) that made the experience rather bad. I have mentioned a lot of these things, but saved the biggest one for last: the fan IQ. I realize that fireworks nights bring out a lot of “non-traditional” fans, but it seemed to be much more noticeable on this evening. It actually got to the point where I started making a mental list of how to spot people who were at a baseball game and cared nothing about what was taking place on the field.

Fans came strolling in late – some as late as the eighth inning – and continued to try to find seats in obviously full sections. This led to fans standing in the aisles for quite long periods trying to survey the area. This could have been resolved by having a team employee stand at the bottom of the sections guiding fans to available seats. Also, a number of fans were up and down throughout the night, mostly to make repeated return trips to buy beer. There did not seem to be a “last call” at this park, despite the two-drink limit per purchase. It is very rare to see parks that do not cut off customers after the seventh inning. Finally, the fans in front of me were far more concerned with everything but the game, including standing up in front of me to talk to their girlfriend, spending time texting back and forth and taking repeated pictures of themselves sitting in the stands. I know this will make me seem to be a total grouch, but the lack of courtesy from fans was alarming.

How to get there:

This is also a bit of a problem. Be very careful if following directions from your GPS, as you will likely be guided through some parts of Savannah that you would rather not see. It is suggested to take Harry S. Truman Parkway, as this is the closest “major” road to Victory Drive (US 80), the road on which the ballpark sits. There are also some directions available on the club’s website, and if you have the ability to use those, do so.

The street address for the park is:

1401 East Victory Drive
Savannah, GA 31404

You may also want to see:

  • Tybee Island. This barrier island near Savannah is near the convergence of the Savannah River and the Atlantic Ocean. Much like the barrier islands just to the north in South Carolina, there are marshes and a sandy beach area, and Tybee makes for a nice coastal getaway.

  • Savannah’s Historic District. As mentioned before, Savannah is loaded with history, and the Historic District and riverfront area provide great shopping, dining and tourism opportunities. Many streets are lined with cobblestones and walking paths. Forsyth Park is also nearby, featuring a memorial area, a fountain and a tree-lined walking area.


3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I moved out of Savannah in 2006, I thought the stadium was a neat place to take my family. Now it was in no way a great ballpark, but for the old history of Savannah and it only being Single A ball it fit very well. The Sandgnats did a lot to the ballpark in the recent years and has done wonders to the eye appeal.

Comment by Jason P.

You forgot to mention that this park features one of the pre-requisite concessions in all of baseball – the much fabled hot boiled peanuts! A must-have for any true SAL-y League excursion.

Comment by Joey

You are absolutely right, Joey! I didn’t get to sample the peanuts on that night, but being from Virginia, I should seek those out a bit more! I’ll give those a spin on my next trip there. I hope to be back very soon!

Comment by attheballpark

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