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Savannah close to landing replacement for Sand Gnats

Published: Jun. 29, 2015 at 6:45 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 29, 2015 at 6:55 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The hole in Savannah's sports summer might be filled before it even really opened.

The city is close to an agreement with a baseball league that would have a team play its games in The Coastal Plain League. It is a wood-bat league for college players from all across the country with teams in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. The city has an agreement in principal for the league's first Georgia team to begin play in Savannah in May, 2016.

"This is a proven league. I've been up to see them play,'' said Savannah Leisure Services Director, Joe Shearouse, who attended VPL game in Gastonia, N.C. "It looks like a lot of fun, a lot of entertainment, good players. The Sand Gnats have been good to us, especially this present ownership, and we hate to see them leave, but this will be something that won't replace them; you can't replace them, but it will be baseball.''

The CPL is a developmental league for college players who still have eligibility remaining, many of whom are preparing for the Major League after their college careers. In existence since 1997, the CPL counts among its alumni 79 players who went on to reach the Major Leagues, including stars Justin Verlanda and Ryan Zimmerman.

CPL teams play a 56-game schedule, which runs from late-May through mid-August, meaning there would be 28 games at Grayson, not including potential playoffs and exhibitions.

"Single-A bsaeball and this summer college league are entertainment,'' said Shearouse. "It's about bringing the kids out to the ballpark and having a good time and interacting with the fans, and that's what this league will be. We'll have fireworks, we'll have special events, we'll have activities between each inning, and what's really exciting about this is the players get more involved.''

According to Shearouse, the potential new team will not require any major capital improvements to Grayson Stadium, and could schedule other, non-baseball events at the stadium before the start of the CPL season. The city could also schedule college and high school games there before, and possibly during, the CPL season.

"We look forward,'' said Shearouse, "to continuing to make use of Grayson Stadium.''

On July 23rd, ownership of the potential new team will go before Savannah City Council and hope to have a contract to play in Grayson approved.

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