4/24/2018 3 Comments
BY: MATTHEW PRESLAR
Last week, upon visiting the new SRP Park (Read Our Ballpark Review) I began to wonder: “Why are teams leaving Georgia for the Palmetto State?” In my mind, mostly due to the Atlanta Braves, I figured Georgia was the center of the professional baseball world in the Southeastern United States. Not until these last couple of years when I fell in love with minor league baseball, did I realize all that South Carolina has to offer. I did some light research to try to answer the question.
The first team to recently leave South Carolina was the Savannah Sand Gnats. Beginning in 2016, This South Atlantic League franchise moved to SC’s capital city and became the Columbia Fireflies. We visited them at Spirit Communications Park post Tim Tebow in 2017 and had a great day at this facility. Similar to many newly constructed parks, it is the centerpiece of a new development community. As these things are usually based on economics, I found evidence to support that concept. Apparently Savannah didn’t want to “play ball” with this Mets affiliate as much as Columbia.
The most recent move up one state north happened this year when the Augusta GreenJackets jumped the Savannah River. Again, one city was willing to give where the previous home was not. Like these other newer parks: the ballpark itself is just a piece of the overall development plan.
So, is this move really significant geographically speaking? From an outsider’s point of view, this isn’t much importance. However, my research indicated otherwise. Apparently, these are all territorial people. Common thought is that many loyal AUGUSTA fans will jump the river to watch in North Augusta, SC... but many South Carolinians would not make the drive into the Peach State to support the GreenJackets. Even though this area as a whole is called the CSRA (Central Savannah River Area), there may be some degree of dissension involving state boundaries.
“Does moving from Georgia to South Carolina have any impact on the franchise? “It helped us tremendously,” responds Eiseman. “Had we been going the other way, it would’ve been tougher for us. That’s because South Carolina folks are very provincial and very proud. If there’s something they want to do and they can do it without crossing state lines, they’ll do it in SC." He added that while operating in Augusta, “we saw very little of our fan base come from Aiken County (South Carolina). Now that we’re moving to that side, Aiken County is making up a much bigger part of our fan base, and it’s growing every day.” ”
It appears all the relocation is economic based. South Carolina has invested a lot in the American past time where Georgia has not stepped up to the plate. I believe these areas will see economic prosperity and great return of investments. We have definitely been impressed with the lovely facilities in Columbia and most recently North Augusta. In these outings we have made many family memories that we will keep forever, all within three hours of our home near Charlotte, North Carolina. With the location of these parks, its very accessible, and perhaps better for business than Savannah and Augusta.
Ultimately, this brings South Carolina up to five minor league franchises. Two more are South Atlantic League South division foes in Greenville and Charleston. The other is Carolina League Advanced A ball in Myrtle Beach. North Carolina for that matter has 11 minor league franchises ranging from Rookie ball to AAA, highlighted by the Durham Bulls and Charlotte Knights. Georgia is down to only two minor league franchises, both Braves affiliated, in Gwinnett and Rome. While these other small Georgia cities aren’t willing to invest, South Carolina has taken the opportunity to bring more of America’s pastime to the Palmetto State. And I am grateful.