Last week, the Savannah Bananas opened their 2022 season with the first of 24 home games scheduled for this summer at Grayson Stadium.
It’s the team’s seventh season in the Coastal Plain League, a collegiate wood-bat circuit with 50 regular season games between 14 teams across the southeast (Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia).
But you already know about the Bananas don’t you? Who doesn’t?
Since arriving in Savannah back in 2016, the Banana baseball revival effort has been led by the brilliantly wacky yellow-suited team owner Jesse Cole.
The Los Angeles Times dubbed him “equal parts P.T. Barnum and Walt Disney,” and that’s exactly the lane Cole and company were hoping to thrive in when they came to town.
By any measure, they’ve been wildly successful. This summer, ESPN+ will broadcast many of the Bananas’ CPL contests. Just last week, Cole and the team were featured in a segment on HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.”
The “Banana-Ball” version of America’s Pastime has been the catalyst for the team’s social media boom. It has a two-hour time limit. Bunting isn’t allowed. Batters can’t step out of the batter’s box between pitches. Foul balls drifting into the stands can be caught by a fan for an out.
These are just a few of the rules for Banana-Ball, nevermind the costumes, dancing and general charades which are a given for nearly every member of the team.
“We said let’s look at every friction point, every boring part of baseball, and do the exact opposite,” explains Cole in the segment. “We aren’t in the baseball business, we are in the entertainment business.”
It has all led to them being called “TikTok’s favorite baseball team” as the team’s official account on the social media platform boasts 2.6 million fans and over 60 million likes. These are the stats which matter most to Cole, forget the back of the baseball card.
All 24 home dates are sold out for this summer, as the Bananas will be shifting back to the traditional baseball format for CPL competition. That’s part of the tradeoff, but something tells me if Cole had it his way, every baseball game would be played under Banana-Ball rules. A fact that irks many traditionalists of the sport, to be sure.
“Baseball traditionalists hate what we’re doing,” says Cole. “Baseball is supposed to be played a certain way. We will always get criticized by the traditionalists.”
Last season, Savannah finished the regular season with a 40-10 record, winning the franchise’s second CPL championship. Head coach Tyler Gillum (who can be seen rocking cowboy boots while coaching from the third base box) won the 2021 CPL coach of the year award.
Find out more about the team by visiting thesavannahbananas.com and follow them on Twitter/Instagram @TheSavBananas.
SAVANNAH SPORTS NOTES
The Savannah Ghost Pirates announced they’ll be affiliated with the NHL’s Las Vegas Golden Knights in a ceremony at EnMarket Arena in mid-May. Mayor Van Johnson was there for the announcement, and MVJ proudly proclaimed: “If we were going to do hockey here, we had to do it right. My only stipulation (for a new professional sports team in Savannah) was that we have a team that won. Because Savannah is a city of champions.”
One of the city’s most successful public school football programs over the past decade, Jenkins High School hosted the first ever on-campus football game at its newly built turf field on May 20. Although it was a spring exhibition game versus Savannah Country Day – Jenkins won, for what that’s worth – the game allowed for many ponder the future possibility of Savannah Chatham County Public School System teams hosting football games on their campuses, rather than SCCPSS continuing to shell out rental fees to use venues like Memorial Stadium, Pooler Stadium and Garden City Stadium. Unlike the two other newly built SCCPSS stadiums on campus at Islands High School and Savannah High School, Jenkins’ field does not have enough seating required by the GHSA to host regular season football games. This begs the question: Why spend roughly $5 million to build the football field at Jenkins if it isn’t able to host regular season football games?
As they did in 2021, the Atlanta Braves entered the month of June with a record below .500 this season. On June 2, 2021, the Bravos were 25-28 and five games back of the first place New York Mets in the National League East division. As we know, Atlanta went on to win the World Series last year despite the slow start. Braves fans are hoping for a similar result this fall as the club looks eerily similar to where it was this time last summer.
Follow Travis Jaudon on Twitter/Instagram @JaudonSports. Email him at travisLjaudon@gmail.com. Listen to him talk sports weekly on the Hot Grits Podcast.