It's not even a baseball game. It's a circus.
April 22, 2022 12:34 PM   Subscribe

Independent league baseball team the Savannah Bananas knows how to entertain. On a given night, their sold out stadium might feature the team doing the Harlem Shake as a hitter steps to the plate, their 60 & up female dance troop The Banana Nanas, The Dad Bod Cheerleading Squad, their official bat dog, Daisy, or an opposing team hitter whose bat is literally on fire. Taking their cues from the Harlem Globetrotters, the Bananas aim to be as unproblematically crazy and entertaining as possible. Their motto: Fans first. Entertain always. All inclusive.

As the 2022 Bananas World Tour starts, The Bananas brand has somehow become national. Their TikTok account boasts more than 575,000 followers, more than any major league team. Every day, their Twitter account posts something else that is well, bananas. At their YouTube channel, you can expect the players to have as much fun as the fans.

The mastermind is a 37-year-old, yellow-tuxedoed iconoclast named Jesse Cole, a former collegiate pitcher who scoffs at the rigidities of professional baseball. No stunt is too crazy. Bring out 75 year-old Bill Lee with a beer in his hand to pitch? Sure. Bring on former Gold Glove pitcher Jake Peavy to pitch... with his Gold Glove? Why not? What to call the Banana mascot? "Split," obviously.

It goes on and on. Team van? Van-nana. How about a pep band dubbed The Banana Band? Dancing first base coach. Official music video. Extended video parody of Major League.The whole team in kilts for a night. A pitcher in stilts they dubbed The World's Tallest Pitcher. A bit of ballet. More dancing. Doing the splits.

For a deeper dive on this unlikely team, check out The Savannah Bananas Story (20 Minutes.)
posted by DirtyOldTown (27 comments total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
Like the old saying goes:

There's always money in the banana stand.
posted by NoThisIsPatrick at 12:50 PM on April 22 [12 favorites]

I am honestly mad that it is so much easier for me to get to a major league ballpark than a minor league or independent league one, given my current location and transportation options. MLB is great, but minor league games are cheaper and way more into silly crowdpleasing shenanigans.

Visiting my mom next weekend and excited to go to a Richmond Flying Squirrels game!

I have seen the Savannah Bananas logo around but have not seen most of this, so thanks for taking the time to compile all these fun links.

All dance teams should be either children or grandmas in my opinion.
posted by the primroses were over at 12:54 PM on April 22 [9 favorites]

looks fun. both to watch and to participate. maybe other sports could take a note or two.
posted by zenon at 12:54 PM on April 22

I went to high school with one of their coaches! It's a perfect fit. The Tacoma Rainiers are also pretty good at the silly stuff, but still only play regular baseball.
posted by sir_patrick_o'veal at 1:21 PM on April 22

There's always money in the banana stand.

And the Banana Nanas will make your banana... stand.
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:30 PM on April 22

Unspeakably peeved that I spent 4 years variously transporting, installing, visiting, and extricating my eldest at SCAD in that lovely little town, and did they alert me to the existence of the Bananas? Did they invite us to a game after our 20+ hour drive to visit them? No, they did not. Not once, the ungrateful wretch.

We have just one shot at life here, people. Don't let this happen to you.
posted by skippyhacker at 1:42 PM on April 22 [31 favorites]

There's a fun rivalry between them and our team, the Macon Bacon [no, really]. The one time I saw them, they whupped our butts ;)
posted by indexy at 2:04 PM on April 22 [6 favorites]

This reminds me of what Mike Veeck did with the Northern League in the 1990s: the motto was "Fun is good," and they delivered at every level.
posted by wenestvedt at 2:20 PM on April 22 [1 favorite]

Missing from this discussion so far is what is a legitimately entertaining modification to the rules:
On Ball 4, the ball is live, just as if it were hit, and the batter can go for whatever base they want. Every player on the defense (except the catcher & pitcher) has to touch the ball before they can make a play. So, a particularly speedy batter could turn that walk into a sprint and try to make it a double -- and hope the defense can't cycle through the positions quick enough to make a play.
posted by miguelcervantes at 2:32 PM on April 22 [11 favorites]

It's a shame the show no longer exists, so we'll never find out the result of Hannah Montana vs the Savannah Bananas.
posted by scruss at 2:50 PM on April 22 [2 favorites]

That's not a bat dog. This is a bat dog.
posted by Paul Slade at 3:01 PM on April 22

I'd love to go see a game with them. Tomorrow night it's the Stockton Ports at the Inland Empire 66ers and a bunch of my friends and I are driving an hour to go to the game and enjoy bad beer and hot dogs and enjoy some Low A ball. Also, I love me some Spaceman.
posted by drewbage1847 at 3:03 PM on April 22 [2 favorites]

I've now been to four Savannah Bananas games since moving to Savannah last summer. The games are very family friendly and the tickets include food (hot dogs, hamburgers, sodas) - they really know how to keep the audience engaged with all sorts of intra-inning shenanigans too.

Got tickets in June and July coming up. Get there early, it's a great show!
posted by djseafood at 3:06 PM on April 22 [10 favorites]

I am all in for the Banana Nanas.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 3:19 PM on April 22 [1 favorite]

Any team that'll bring Bill Lee out to the mound and let him pitch a fake at-bat, well, I wanna see them now. Because our local AAA ballclub just moved towns, and their new name and mascot sucks. Also because everything else in this post makes it seem like Disneyland for minor-league baseball fans.

But it's a long damn drive to Georgia. I was lucky enough to see Shohei Ohtani pitch-n-hit about a month ago, in the only spring training game I've ever been to... it was an Angels away game at the Brewers' Cactus League stadium—so that means I also got to see the Johnsonville Brats race. So there's that!

But seeing Bill Lee trot to the mound with a beer in his hand, that made my day. Just don't let anyone named Bill Lee run for Governor, no matter the state, or the Bill Lee, or state of Bill Lee.
posted by not_on_display at 5:08 PM on April 22 [2 favorites]

So they finally jazzed it up
posted by Lorin at 5:14 PM on April 22 [2 favorites]

Perfect post for a Friday night. Great to see so many people have wacky fun!
posted by gryphonlover at 6:19 PM on April 22

Given the way the Oakland As are pissing on their fanbase, at this point I'd happily trade them for a minor-league team within a 20-minute drive. Minor league games are just more fun, and you can sit closer to the play. And the food is cheaper.
posted by suelac at 7:48 PM on April 22 [1 favorite]

Oh this made me happy. Thank you for posting this!
posted by Vatnesine at 8:51 PM on April 22

I was lucky enough to watch the Bananas win their championship game last year and it was one of the most joyous, entertaining and awe-inspiring events I've ever been a part of. It may be the greatest game of baseball I'll ever see in person, honestly.

The thing the Bananas do that impressed me the most was how they perform the National Anthem before each game. Instead of someone walking out to home plate and singing a solo while everyone stands silently and listens, Jesse Cole asks the crowd to rise and remove their caps and then says, basically, take it away. And then the entire stadium sings the anthem together! There's no musical accompaniment, either. Its just several thousand people all singing for themselves and eachother. I'm very conflicted about the National Anthem in sports and patriotism overall but, damn, that really got to me. I really wish more teams did it that way.
posted by Hey Dean Yeager! at 12:04 AM on April 23 [10 favorites]

foul balls caught by fans get the batter out

lol that's perfect.
posted by mediareport at 4:31 AM on April 23 [6 favorites]

Fun useless, trivia: I live a ten minute walk from their home stadium. They put on a lot of fun fireworks shows!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:21 AM on April 23 [1 favorite]

So, that 4th ball rule, is that just for the Bananas? Or does the entire league play with that rule?
posted by snwod at 8:33 AM on April 23

"the Bananas aim to be as unproblematically crazy and entertaining as possible"

Emphasis on "Bananas" and "Unproblematic" and "Crazy".

posted by Faintdreams at 9:21 AM on April 23

So, that 4th ball rule, is that just for the Bananas? Or does the entire league play with that rule?

Yeah, that part was confusing to me, too. This January 2021 article has more info; the team of amateur college players plays by normal Coastal Plain League rules during the summer, but then I think also plays some bananaball for non-league games?

Then there's a newer professional Premier Team that plays exhibition bananaball with the wacky rules against the Party Animals, a rival created by the team (similar to the role the Washington Generals play against the Harlem Globetrotters):

The Bananas Premier Team will consistent of professional players — unlike the collegiate summer league squad that annually calls Grayson Stadium home. Professional in that they will be paid to play, and that the roster likely will include experienced pros...Savannah expects to sign 34 players to divide between the Premier Team and the Party Animals.

I hope those college kids are getting something out of this.
posted by mediareport at 11:04 AM on April 23

Minor league games are just more fun, and you can sit closer to the play.

The skill levels in major league ball are so high even hits that look hard to field can be automatic outs. In the minors there's more room for players to make mistakes and it can be more exciting. I used to go to Durham Bulls games at the old stadium (it was just like walking into the movie). I once saw an inside-the-park home run on a hard-hit ball to right field.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:48 PM on April 23 [1 favorite]

As the 2022 Bananas World Tour starts

Which included games in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Kansas.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:52 PM on April 23

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