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Savannah Sand Gnats to Columbia for 2016

Sally LeagueWe have another team on the move for 2016, as the Savannah Sand Gnats (Low Class A; Sally League) are relocating to Columbia’s Sprint Communications Park next season, with a franchise name still to come.

Not a surprise: Hardball Capital’s Jason Freier already owns the Savannah team and is working with a partner on the Columbia ballpark. Despite some rumors of another team being purchased and moved into Columbia, this is the logical move: it means that there’s little chance of a new Savannah ballpark to replace Grayson Stadium, a 1926 ballpark renovated in 1941 with WPA backing, despite years of proposals and work on Freier’s part.

The franchise will remain a farm team of the New York Mets. The announcement was made today at a Columbia (S.C.) press conference, with Mets GM Sandy Alderson on hand. Also on hand: team president John Katz, who will move with the team from Savannah to Columbia.

“We are excited about returning to Columbia where we had a presence for over two decades (1983-2004),” said Alderson. “So many of the top Mets stars, like current team captain David Wright, got their start in Columbia. The plans for Spirit Communications Park look spectacular, and we can’t wait to develop the next generation of Mets Major Leaguers here.”

Alderson has roots in the Midlands, spending part of his youth in Sumter. Alderson’s father, an Air Force pilot, was stationed at Shaw Air Force Base from 1957-1961.

“We’re extremely excited to be able to continue our partnership with the New York Mets and bring a tradition of quality baseball and first-class, affordable family entertainment to the Midlands,” Freier said. “We look forward to a long, bright future at Columbia Common and to doing our part to contribute to the success of the project and the vibrancy of downtown Columbia.”

“We’re very excited because not only is today about welcoming Minor League Baseball back to the City of Columbia, it’s about celebrating the new spirit of energy and enthusiasm sweeping across our city like never before,” said Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin. “Something special is happening in Columbia and this team is a big part of it.”

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