Savannah Bananas: baseball fun??

The Gray Eagle

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Stan Grossfield in The Glob has a look at minor league collegiate summer team the Savannah Bananas, who do anything they can think of to make baseball as fun and interesting as possible:
https://www.bostonglobe.com/2021/07/16/sports/how-baseball-can-be-more-fun-according-savannah-bananas/
Banana Ball, it's bananas!
The Bananas have played in kilts, had a hitter on stilts, danced in tutus, and tossed team-mandated underwear into the stands.
Tonight, they are playing an exhibition game by Banana Ball rules, which were invented to make baseball more exciting for fans.
“It’s going to be fast. It’s going to be quick and it’s a lot of fun,” promises Jesse Cole, the Bananas’ owner and wired ringleader who always wears a banana yellow tuxedo and top hat and races 37,900 steps around Grayson Stadium.
Many of these ideas would make traditionalists' heads explode. (Which overall could be good for the game?)

Some rules are revolutionary, such as if a fan catches a foul ball, the batter is out. Others are radical: No stepping out of the batter’s box. No bunting. No mound visits.
Walks are called sprints. After ball four, the batter freely sprints around the bases until each defensive player touches the ball.
Scoring is very different. If a team wins an inning, it is awarded a point. The first team to 5 wins.

Otherwise, the game goes nine innings with a two-hour time limit. If it’s still tied there’s a showdown tiebreaker. Just the pitcher vs. the hitter, with one fielder to chase down the ball and prevent an inside-the-park walkoff.
They seem to be a hit, especially with young people.

The Bananas are a social media phenomenon. Their TikTok account has 643,000 followers, more than any team in Major League Baseball and they don’t even show highlights. The sellout streak is over 100 games (including COVID-restriction capacity) and there are 8,000 fans on the waiting list for 4,000 seats. Merchandise has been shipped to all 50 states.


The actual game is a joy to watch.

Not one hitter stepped out of the box. The pitchers, fearful of those sprints that turn into sure doubles and in one case a triple, throw strikes and the Bananas win, 3-2.

There are elements of a Harlem Globetrotters game. Bananas starting pitcher Kyle Luigs tells the Stars what pitch he is going to throw and they still can’t hit it, even the Eephus pitch.
In the middle of the game, everybody dances to the old Ben E. King hit “Stand By Me,” with players and Cole dancing on top of the dugout.
Nick Clarno, the first baseman who plays with his glove in his mouth and fields ground balls barehanded, is having too much fun.
Twice Clarno comes to bat and smashes two banana cream soda cans into his mouth, and then snaps his bat like a toothpick over his knee. He also delivers two walkoff hits.

Banana Ball is a bargain. The $18 ticket includes all you can eat food and drink and free parking.

Cole and friends also put together a professional Savannah Bananas team that he plans to tour with. They sold out two nights in Mobile, Ala., this spring with their “One City World Tour.” Old friend Jake Peavy threw out the first banana.
I like the idea of some of these rules, really dislike others. I just hope Rob Manfred doesn't find out about this, because he would choose the worst rules to try to bring to MLB while ignoring the best ones.

But it sounds like a really fun experience to watch these guys play.

Maybe Banana Ball should become a new, separate sport. Or their pro team can do an actual national tour, longer than one city, like the Harlem Globetrotters, or like barnstorming teams used to. I'd go watch, it sounds really fun.
 

Preacher

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I used to live in Savannah and the Bananas play in the stadium where the Savannah Sand Gnats (A level club associated with the Mets). Anyways, I only found out a few weeks ago about this club after a friend posted some videos on FB from the games so I watched some of their videos online. I knew they had sold out a bunch of games but I didn't realize they were getting national level attention. I'm sure the games are a lot of entertainment. Savannah is a pretty fun city in general so I'm sure the locals get a kick out of it because I don't recall the Gnats selling out games when I lived there.
 

The Gray Eagle

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I used to live in Savannah and the Bananas play in the stadium where the Savannah Sand Gnats (A level club associated with the Mets). Anyways, I only found out a few weeks ago about this club after a friend posted some videos on FB from the games so I watched some of their videos online. I knew they had sold out a bunch of games but I didn't realize they were getting national level attention. I'm sure the games are a lot of entertainment. Savannah is a pretty fun city in general so I'm sure the locals get a kick out of it because I don't recall the Gnats selling out games when I lived there.
The article mentions the Gnats and their old ballpark:
Cole proposed to his wife, Emily, with a ring in a hollowed-out baseball during the last game of 2015.

To celebrate the couple went to Savannah, where they took in a Savannah Gnats (Mets Single A affiliate) game.

“It was eerie,” says Emily. “There was nobody there.”

Jessie fell in love with the decaying, ancient ballpark. The Red Sox held spring training here in 1932 then went on to lose 111 games. Babe Ruth hit a home run here as a Boston Brave and Henry Aaron, Jackie Robinson, Bob Dylan, and FDR all appeared here.

When the Gnats flew away in September 2015, Cole bought the new franchise in the Coastal Plain League, to begin play in 2016.
 

Winger 03

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I am going to a game there next Saturday. My daughter cannot wait, she is a huge fan based on their TikTok account.

We have been on the Bananas for a couple of years, their trajectory to national attention is nothing short of amazing. The team is a summer team not unlike the Worcester Bravehearts. The "Banana Ball" they speak of are not league games, but "exhibitions" against non-league opponents. The league games are straight baseball.
 
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Spud

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Nov 15, 2006
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Maybe MLB could incorporate a Banana Ball game/exhibition into the All Star festivities. Five innings prior to the game? That would require starting at a civilized time rather than at 8 pm, but it sounds like a fun time.
 

The Gray Eagle

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The more I think about it, the more I like their walk rule. Walks are frigging boring. They turn them into exciting plays, and make walks a lot more costly, so pitchers are incentivized to definitely NOT walk anyone. In the video above, a walk turned into a triple, and triples are exciting big plays.

That rule will never happen in the majors, but it seems like it would be a really fun change.
 

wiffleballhero

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In the simulacrum
The more I think about it, the more I like their walk rule. Walks are frigging boring. They turn them into exciting plays, and make walks a lot more costly, so pitchers are incentivized to definitely NOT walk anyone. In the video above, a walk turned into a triple, and triples are exciting big plays.

That rule will never happen in the majors, but it seems like it would be a really fun change.
I was thinking the same thing. A gimmick, but one that would absolutely improve the game. Bring it on.
 

Yo La Tengo

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I am going to a game there next Saturday. My daughter cannot wait, she is a huge fan based on their TikTok account.

We have been on the Bananas for a couple of years, their trajectory to national attention is nothing short of amazing. The team is a summer team not unlike the Worcester Bravehearts. The "Banana Ball" they speak of are not league games, but "exhibitions" against non-league opponents. The league games are straight baseball.
Do the actual players play in the exhibition games or do they have an exhibition roster? And, do the exhibition games happen on the same day as the league games?
 

Winger 03

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I believe they have a separate roster because most of the exhibition games are during the off season. Though, I suspect, there can be some crossover but I am unsure about how "getting paid" may align with the NCAA rules for college players.

So as you can surmise... I am not certain, but I'll poke around on Saturday - I have that same question. For the team they put together for their "One City World Tour" they had tryouts.
 

Winger 03

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So I went to a Bananas game on Saturday. You may have seen something about it on Barstool or ESPN - we were at the game where a player did his own walk-up announcement.

Saturday's game was a normal CPL league game, regular baseball, not "Banana Ball" with the different rules. I could go on and on about what we saw and believe me the action is completely nonstop from even before the gates open at 530 until we left which was about 1030 pm or so. The baseball itself was good - about what you would expect from a summer college wood bat league. But the Bananas hook is everything else - we loved it all but I could see how a straight baseball purist might not. Aside from the time that the pitcher gets set until the resolution of that pitch, there is nonstop music or a promotion or something completely unexpected. Everyone, and I mean everyone is in on the act. Players, staff, the MC, the DJ, the owner you name it, they are involved. I took some time to speak to a few players after the game - they are accessible on the plaza just outside the gates post-game armed with sharpies for kids autographs - and to a player they all said they are having the best time ever. All tickets include all-you-can-eat hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, hamburgers, chips, cookies, popcorn soda and water. And it is not some bullshit go up and get one of something and come back later, it is go up and order or take whatever you want in whatever quantity you want and do it all game long.

All in all, I continue to be all-in on the Bananas and look forward to another trip to Savannah.
 

santadevil

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So I went to a Bananas game on Saturday. You may have seen something about it on Barstool or ESPN - we were at the game where a player did his own walk-up announcement.

Saturday's game was a normal CPL league game, regular baseball, not "Banana Ball" with the different rules. I could go on and on about what we saw and believe me the action is completely nonstop from even before the gates open at 530 until we left which was about 1030 pm or so. The baseball itself was good - about what you would expect from a summer college wood bat league. But the Bananas hook is everything else - we loved it all but I could see how a straight baseball purist might not. Aside from the time that the pitcher gets set until the resolution of that pitch, there is nonstop music or a promotion or something completely unexpected. Everyone, and I mean everyone is in on the act. Players, staff, the MC, the DJ, the owner you name it, they are involved. I took some time to speak to a few players after the game - they are accessible on the plaza just outside the gates post-game armed with sharpies for kids autographs - and to a player they all said they are having the best time ever. All tickets include all-you-can-eat hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, hamburgers, chips, cookies, popcorn soda and water. And it is not some bullshit go up and get one of something and come back later, it is go up and order or take whatever you want in whatever quantity you want and do it all game long.

All in all, I continue to be all-in on the Bananas and look forward to another trip to Savannah.
Thanks for that update Winger. As a family we like to take a road trip every couple of years and this is quickly moving up the list, before it potentially fades away

edit/
Was this the game?
View: https://twitter.com/TheSavBananas/status/1419103906462904320?s=20
 

Winger 03

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Thanks for that update Winger. As a family we like to take a road trip every couple of years and this is quickly moving up the list, before it potentially fades away

edit/
Was this the game?
View: https://twitter.com/TheSavBananas/status/1419103906462904320?s=20

Indeed that was the game. Kind of fun that the only Bananas game we have been to is getting a lot of notoriety. They are also all-in on the new NIL rules and are doing specific jerseys for each player and the sale of those jerseys will benefit the players.

https://thesavannahbananas.com/bananas-x-nil-collaboration/

I am going to be in Macon (about 2.5 hrs away) in early August, just in time for the playoff finals - hopefully they are in and I can get tickets - I'll happily make the drive.
 

Royal Reader

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Indeed that was the game. Kind of fun that the only Bananas game we have been to is getting a lot of notoriety. They are also all-in on the new NIL rules and are doing specific jerseys for each player and the sale of those jerseys will benefit the players.

https://thesavannahbananas.com/bananas-x-nil-collaboration/

I am going to be in Macon (about 2.5 hrs away) in early August, just in time for the playoff finals - hopefully they are in and I can get tickets - I'll happily make the drive.
You know the Macon Bacon are their "deadly rivals," right?
 

Winger 03

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You know the Macon Bacon are their "deadly rivals," right?
That is true, but they have been destroying the Bacon all season long. Macon out of the playoffs, so my only hope for a game when there is SAV makes it to the finals.

They play a "Breakfast Bowl" series against the Bacon after the regular season ends - I believe those are Banana Ball games.
 

Winger 03

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Bananas make the finals (best of 3) starting on Thursday. I believe I have tickets for the Friday game which could be the clincher. They had a nearly 3 hr rain delay mid-game last night and won 10-0.

The fun continues!
 

Winger 03

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Bananas win the CPL, final record including playoffs was 40-10. There is some really good baseball among the frivolity. They are getting a lot of national attention lately, well worth a trip to Savannah to see what it is all about.
 
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cromulence

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I thought we'd be talking about this play, which is just incredible. The third baseman was mic'ed up and perfectly predicted the play he was about to make, down to which hop and how he'd make the throw. I love the "Oh my god" when the ball is hit to him, like "Oh shit I'm actually gonna do this now!"
 

Winger 03

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The 3rd baseman who made that play, Bill LeRoy is their usual catcher during the CPL season. He is a Bananas legend - having played on their CPL team for 4 seasons and is a pretty good guy. He and my son go to the same college. He is also the same guy who "announced himself" back in late July that got a little attention as well.

There was a 6 minute or so feature on the team on SportsCenter yesterday AM.

Lots of eyes on them now.