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The campus is in your field now
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Knowing that students in the Savannah/Chatham County schools had a tough time on the horizon with the upcoming standardized CRCT testing, the district, in cooperation with E93, WSAV, and the Savannah Sand Gnats toured over 30 elementary and middle schools last week and conducted 30-minute pep rallies to motivate the students in advance of the test.

This year, the third-graders in Georgia must pass the reading section of the exam or be held back a year. The district arranged the pep-rallies to help relax children, entertain them, and help them see the value in taking the standardized tests by placing their successes into context.

“This is just a really cool thing for the kids, and something that we’ve done on a year to year basis,” said Mark Dunston, host of WSAV’s popular "Magic Marc" show on Saturday mornings.

15 different players from the Sand Gnats delivered a message to children in schools from Thunderbolt to Garden City, and everywhere in between in the four-day tour that commenced last Tuesday.

“I just love hanging out with kids,” said Gnats’ reserve infielder Ja’Mar Clanton, who joined teammate Daryl Thompson at Ellis Elementary on Wednesday. Clanton encouraged the kids to keep up their grades if they want to have the ability to play high school athletics and follow their dreams of turning pro.

Popular Savannah radio personality J Chris from E-93 FM was on hand to give children advice on how best to prepare for the test.

“I told them to pick up the books instead of watching Sponge Bob and WWE Wrestling.”

Starting pitcher Jason Bergmann, who works as a substitute teacher at schools near his home in Manalapan, NJ, spoke to children about the similarities between preparation for tests and how he prepares when he pitches.

“Every time I’m out there; that’s my test,” Bergmann said. “I have to get the batter out, be it with three strikes or by getting him to fly out to left field. Every day there’s a test.”

The players, along with representatives from the Gnats’ management staff, got hold of plastic bats and balls to play games with the audience. Teachers and students who participated in the "student-teacher home run derby" took home tickets to see the Sand Gnats.

Lou Long, Assistant Academic Services Officer for the Chatham County School District, liked what he saw from the young Sand Gnat players. Along with Director of communications James Harvey, Long was on the tour as well to help get the children motivated.

“These players did a very nice job; a great group of young guys. It was great to have them be a part of this.”

Every player had a slightly different message. Outfielder Jerry Owens impressed teachers at Garden City Elementary when he told the children that “failure to prepare is to prepare to fail.” Owens also stressed to the children to seek the support of their parents and to remember that they are on their side.

Players also drew comparisons between the different levels of minor-league baseball and the levels of elementary school, with proper preparation and review required to move onto the next level.

“Every time and every day before I go out there, I have to review. All day, review,” said second baseman Franklyn Jimenez. Outfielder Reggie Fitzpatrick urged students to “go out there and do your best.”

“When I set foot on our field at Grayson Stadium, that’s when I’m at work,” said starting pitcher Brett Nyquist. “The school campus is your field right now.”

Youngsters also had the chance to ask questions of Sand Gnats ballplayers such as Josh Emmerick and Clint Everts.

Long and J Chris also informed the third graders that they will all be attending the Sand Gnats’ annual Education Day game on Wednesday, May 19th at Historic Grayson Stadium as a reward for their hard work.

Sand Gnats players will be partnering with the Chatham-Effingham Tobacco Use Prevention Coalition and making a return to schools on Friday, May 7th for the Day of Caring. Players will be deployed to elementary schools throughout Chatham County for a visitation and reading session with children following the CRCT exam.