COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Don't cut the ribbon, pop the champagne, and scream "PLAY BALL" just yet: the Savannah Sand Gnats have not officially said whether or not they are leaving Georgia and hitching a ride up Interstate 95 and Interstate 26 to Columbia.
Despite reports to the contrary out of Savannah, officials with the City of Columbia, the Sand Gnats themselves, or Hardball Capital -- the ownership group spearheading efforts to bring a team to Columbia -- no one has come out and said with absolute certainty that Savannah's team will be the Minor League Baseball franchise that will be playing in Columbia's new Spirit Communications Park next year.
Instead, the head of the City of Savannah's Department of Leisure Services, Joe Shearhouse, says he's merely assuming the team will be moving to Columbia next year.
"That's what I'm assuming," Shearhouse said. "Y'all are building the new stadium up there."
Shearhouse said the city remains in discussions with Hardball Capital, the group that also owns the Sand Gnats, but nothing is concrete yet.
Hardball Capital CEO Jason Freier has repeatedly said a franchise will be located in Columbia in time for the ball park's opening in April 2016. However, due to Major League Baseball rules, Freier cannot discuss the potential movement of a franchise.
As for the team itself, Freier said in earlier interviews that he expects to name the franchise heading to Columbia some time this spring.