SAVANNAH, Ga. - The party really got started when a 6-foot tall Gnat, named "Gnate T," clung onto a four-year-old-and the child's only response was to laugh.

After a few base hits and some double plays, only a few people - of the more than 300 in attendance - were able to sit down.

More than 40 3rd Infantry Division, Special Troops "Legion" Battalion Soldiers and their Families used the Historic Grayson Stadium here as a site for a Battalion Hail and Farewell.

The Soldiers stationed at Fort Stewart had all-you-can-eat hamburgers, hotdogs, baked beans and fountain drinks, while welcoming several Soldiers joining the unit and honoring those Soldiers who are leaving.

"We wanted a place to do this so that Families and the Soldiers could relax and really enjoy themselves," said event organizer, Capt. Chadwick Swenson, company commander. Headquarters Operations Company. "Baseball is the great American past time, but we also wanted a Family event with plenty of room and it's financially feasible for the Families."

The sixth-placed Savannah Sand Gnats played against the division-leading Charleston Riverdogs, both part of the southern conference of the South Atlantic Baseball League.

Three weeks prior to the event, Capt. Swenson researched the game through their Web site, but he said eventually he linked up with the Sand Gnats staff who were "very helpful."

"I've never been part of something like this," said Cristina Faiella, Savannah Sand Gnats promotions manager. "We wanted to create a Family atmosphere where people can get together and be relaxed."
"A Hail and Farewell at a baseball game seemed like such a cool idea - I mean it can't get any more American that," she said.

With Faiella's help, two of the battalion's senior enlisted advisors, Command Sgt. Maj. McArthur Dixon, 3rd ID STB, battalion command sergeant major, and 1st Sgt. Gregory Roman, HHOC, company first sergeant, each threw an honorary "first-pitch" to kick off the game.

"The turn-out was grea; we had a lot of interest in this event from the beginning," Capt. Swenson said. "This really builds esprit de corps and it also gets Soldiers and their Families together so people can see that their chain of command are normal, regular people who want to have the same positive experience with their Families."

The Sand Gnats got to a slow start giving up, four runs to the Riverdogs by the third inning. But the home team rallied by the fifth inning, shutting down the Riverdogs' offense for the rest of the game. The Sand Gnats finished the game strong, coming away with the 7-4 win.

"This is a great activity and (the Sand Gnats) have a great facility," Capt. Swenson said. "You have to get out here and have some fun."