The Daily Gamecock

Fireflies set to light up Columbia

Minor League Baseball welcomes the Columbia Fireflies to the field in the upcoming 2016 MiLB season.

A new era of Columbia baseball will begin when the Columbia Fireflies officially take to the field, a sneak peek of which was given with the release of the 2016 schedule. 

As the team of the midlands and the state, the Fireflies are an affiliate of the New York Mets as the newest addition to the South Atlantic League. The Mets’ general manager, Sandy Alderson, was present for the announcement of the affiliation on May 21.

"We are excited about returning to Columbia where we had a presence for over two decades (1983-2004)," Alderson said. “So many of the top Mets stars, like current team captain David Wright, got their start in Columbia. The plans for Spirit Communications Park look spectacular, and we can't wait to develop the next generation of Mets Major Leaguers here.”

As a part of the South Atlantic League, the Fireflies will compete against rivals such as the Charleston RiverDogs, Rome Braves, Augusta Greenjackets and Greensboro Grasshoppers. The Fireflies' home games will be played under the lights of Spirit Communications Park.

Spirit Communications Park is a year-round sports and entertainment venue. Currently under construction, the stadium will open in March of 2016. The stadium will seat approximately 9,000 for major sporting events and 15,000 for outdoor concerts. Spirit Communications Park will serve as a public park with the concourse representing a one-third mile path for runners and walkers.

The name “Fireflies” comes from a certain species of firefly, Photuris frontalis, and the behavior that it displays. Its synchronization with other fireflies of its kind represents the community of Columbia and how the city comes together to tackle major issues. This theme also represents the coming together at Spirit Communications Park, which is located in the Midlands.

"We're very excited because not only is today about welcoming Minor League Baseball back to the city of Columbia, it's about celebrating the new spirit of energy and enthusiasm sweeping across our city like never before," Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said. "Something special is happening in Columbia and this team is a big part of it."

Along with this announcement, Hardball Capital welcomed John Katz as team president. Katz is a 23-year Minor League operator and has been a part of Hardball Capital for the majority of the decade. For the past five seasons, Katz was the president of the Savannah Sand Gnats.

"Columbia is a wonderful city. I have had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time here over the past year, and my family and I look forward to becoming permanent residents," Katz said.

Hardball Capital is continuing the process of finalizing the logo, name and brand identity for the Fireflies. They have over 2,000 submissions and plan to unveil the new designs in the near future.