World-famous Bananas pitch fun to fans

Savannah Bananas premier team to bring life back into baseball

click to enlarge Fans and Savannah Bananas players celebrate at historic Grayson Stadium. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SAVANNAH BANANAS
Photo courtesy of the Savannah Bananas
Fans and Savannah Bananas players celebrate at historic Grayson Stadium.
Bats cracking, beer tapping and the crowd clapping are all sounds you’d expect to hear at a traditional sports game, but what about chains on kilts jingling, Nanas laughing and the first base coach break dancing? These are the sounds and sights fans can look forward to if they’ve managed to snag a ticket for one of the four Savannah Bananas premier team games.

The Savannah Bananas are selling out games, yet again, so it is obvious the team is doing something right through their fans first, entertainment always mission. To create even more buzz, Owner Jesse Cole announced the team will add new characters, a brand new dance team and a food and beverage option that is “going to be wild,” this upcoming season.

“You’ve got to think dramatically different,” said Cole, also the founder of Fans First Entertainment. “Everything we think about is what’s fans first.”

The Savannah Bananas are peeling back the layers of obstacles the past year has put on live entertainment. This month, they are revealing their brand new premier team from their home at the historic Grayson Stadium and taking to Mobile, Alabama – all as part of their One-City World Tour.

“It sounds pretty ridiculous, but that’s what we do,” Cole said. The premier team is different from the regular collegiate team who plays during the summer. Baseball players with a sense of humor or hidden talent were called to try out from all over the country to be a Banana. Unlike the collegiate team, these players get paid to play, Cole said.

click to enlarge Fans of all ages celebrate during a Savannah Bananas game at historic Grayson Stadium. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SAVANNAH BANANAS
Photo courtesy of the Savannah Bananas
Fans of all ages celebrate during a Savannah Bananas game at historic Grayson Stadium.
The premier team will play in a St. Patrick’s Day-themed game March 13 and an added game March 20 in Savannah at Grayson Stadium.

Cole said the premier team will perform like the Harlem Globetrotters.

That isn’t a spoiler. If patrons have tickets to the upcoming March 13 or added March 20 game, they can expect nothing short of real, live entertainment – the Bananas’ bread and butter.

The following weekend, the team will be in Mobile and since the March 26 game sold out in one day, they added another game on March 27.

“We are flying to a different city who has never seen us, and the game sold out 24 hours – 3500 tickets in 24 hours in Mobile, Alabama,” Cole said.

Fans can expect an edge-of-your-seat competitive game, all while taking in the excitement of the break-dancing first-base coach, a male cheerleading team called the Mananas, a senior citizen dance team called the Banana Nanas and more.

Cole said the reason so many characters and antics are added to the game is so that everyone who comes to the Bananas ballpark has someone they can relate to – from a slightly out-of-shape middle aged man to a dancing grandma and not to mention the players and coaches.

“I think that’s what’s pretty cool – I’ve never thought about that too much, but you know when you go to most sporting events, fans can’t really relate much to the performers,” Cole said. “But, I think at a Bananas game, everyone has an opportunity so say they see a little bit of themselves in someone that is actually performing.”

Tryouts were held Feb. 20 and a team was formed of the best 35 players.

“Everything we think about is what’s fans first.” - Jesse Cole, Savannah Bananas owner.

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Those interested ranged from police officers, former professional players and a former Notre Dame football player to a guy who’s dad won the Olympic Gold Medal in the 4x100 for the U.S., not to mention the last Banana, who was voted in by fans on social media.

The Bananas hopefuls went through stations at the tryouts, to include a Tik-Tok station, an interview station, a station where they watched videos about Bananas U and Fans First U.

“We had talent – that’s why one guy brought his unicycle and brought his stilts, and why one guy was doing splits in his kilt,” Cole said. “We’re so clear that this isn’t about serious baseball so what we do is we attract people that aren’t seriously all about the baseball, they’re about the fun and the baseball.”

click to enlarge Savannah Bananas baseball team players dance during a game at their home in historic Grayson Stadium. Fans can expect the excitement of the break-dancing first-base coach, a male cheerleading team called the Mananas, a senior citizen dance team called the Banana Nanas and more at every premier team and collegiate game. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SAVANNAH BANANAS
Photo courtesy of the Savannah Bananas
Savannah Bananas baseball team players dance during a game at their home in historic Grayson Stadium. Fans can expect the excitement of the break-dancing first-base coach, a male cheerleading team called the Mananas, a senior citizen dance team called the Banana Nanas and more at every premier team and collegiate game.
Cole said men traveled from as far as California to try out.

“Everybody has a dream of playing pro baseball, but does everyone have that opportunity to actually play baseball, but have as much fun as possible?” Cole said.

Of the 35, a draft will be held to determine which players are on the Savannah Bananas and which are on the Party Animals.

“Really, our fans guide us: what we do and where we’ll go next and what our next plan is,” Cole said.

Five years ago to the day Cole interviewed with Connect Savannah for this article, he said the Savannah Bananas, with their initially rejected new name, were number one trending on Twitter nationally. Cole said he was told the team name was an embarrassment to the sport, but he considered the old saying that any publicity is good publicity.

“People finally knew who we were,” Cole said. “And once we were able to convince enough people to come to the game, it was a sold-out crowd. Then, they just told everyone. They saw … the shenanigans and the fun and from that point every single game was sold out.”

Cole is determined to have fun. He’s also just downright determined.

The team has come a long way from the beginning of his ownership when he and his wife only sold two tickets in the first three months. Cole said the two sold their dream house and dedicated all their efforts to keeping their new purchase afloat.

The two knew they could bounce back from such a loss because they knew this team was different.

“We believed in it,” Cole said.

Cole said the team now has more followers on Tik Tok – nearly 400k – than every Major League Baseball team.

“People are following us from all over the world,” Cole said. “We never imagined something like this would happen.”

During COVID, Cole said they had to turn away 50,000 people who had already bought tickets, but just before that, he made the decision to transform the stadium to keep fans’ minds where they should be: on the fun.

“What other sports team in the country is dumb enough to throw away all their advertising revenue and say we’re creating the first ever ad-free ballpark?” Cole said. “Now, if you’ve come to Grayson Stadium this past year, we’ve eliminated every single billboard, every single ad, because we don’t believe anyone comes to a ballpark to be sold to or marketed to.

Cole said he “threw away” hundreds of thousands of dollars two weeks before COVID, but overall, said they’ve been very fortunate in creating revenue.

click to enlarge Fans sport sports jerseys from all over the country as they meet Savannah Bananas players on the field at Grayson Stadium. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SAVANNAH BANANAS
Photo courtesy of the Savannah Bananas
Fans sport sports jerseys from all over the country as they meet Savannah Bananas players on the field at Grayson Stadium.
“Every day we’re selling merchandise all over the world,” Cole said. “The merchandise is bigger than I could have imagined."

Brand new characters will be seen in the spring series and then in the summer, a brand new dance team.

Cole said there’s also going to a new drink at the ballpark that is going to be “electric.”

“A drink that people are going to think we’re crazy for doing that has never been done at a ballpark that is going to create a lot of buzz,” Cole said. “We’re constantly experimenting, I think that’s what makes it fun,” Cole said.

The Savannah Bananas play locally at Grayson Stadium, 1401 E. Victory Drive. Visit thesavannahbananas.com for the latest updates and to purchase tickets.

About The Author

Noelle Wiehe

Noelle Wiehe is a dream-chasing journalist from Ohio. She has a Bachelor of Arts with a focus in journalism from the University of Cincinnati and attended the United States Army's Defense Information School at Fort Meade, Maryland. A U.S. Army veteran, Wiehe has a passion for sharing stories of local heroes,...
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