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Sand Gnat’s New President Settling In; Getting Ready for 2010 Season

Category: Hospitality & Tourism

Dec. 15, 2009 - The Savannah Sand Gnats’ new president, John Katz, is getting settled in, and looking ahead to the 2010 season.

Savannah’s minor league baseball team, owned by Hardball Capital, LLC. of Atlanta, officially named Katz to the position as of Oct. 1.  He who was formerly with the Salem Avalanche (now known as the Salem Red Sox), an Advanced Class A team of the Boston Red Sox also owned by the company, in Salem, Va. 

Katz held the title of vice president/general manager there for the past four years, and replaces Brad Dodson who has served as the Sand Gnat’s general manager for a number of years. Dodson has moved on to Nashville, Tenn.

Hardball Capital LLC’s owners Jason Freier and Chris Schoen also own the minor league team in Fort Wayne, Ind.  The firm invests in and operates baseball related businesses, looks for opportunities where it can purchase teams in attractive markets and can improve the performance of those assets through application of its real estate development expertise, operating capabilities and business and sponsor contacts.

As to the 2010 season: “We’re focused on uncovering the magic potion to control the rain,” Katz said with a laugh. “But seriously, we’re focused on the fan experience, taking what’s been working here and building on it.  We have a long slate of new promotions that are family oriented, for example, for 2010,” he said, “that appeal to a broad range of folks.”

Katz said that the Red Sox had just under 250,000 fans for the 2009 season.  The Gnats ended up with about 105,000, which was an increase in attendance over the prior year, but under expectations due in large part to a very difficult rainy season that hit early in June, with rain hitting on many home game nights.

The Savannah Sand Gnats are a member of the A-level South Atlantic League. Since the 2007 season, the Gnats have been an affiliate of the New York Mets.  The manager for the 2010 season has not yet been announced, “but we should know probably right after the first of the year,” Katz said.

The Sand Gnats play their home games at Grayson Stadium. Opened in 1927, Grayson Stadium seats 4,700 fans. The city of Fort Wayne built the team there a new stadium which opened for the 2009 season and resulted in dramatic growth in attendance statistics.

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