The Craziest Antics in Baseball — The Savannah Bananas

Joe Miller, Bill Leroy, and Nolan Daniel — By Jenna Arend

You’ve probably seen them on TikTok or read about them on ESPN, and if you haven’t, you’re missing out. The Savannah Bananas are all the rage right now on social media and have had a large presence for the past couple of years. For those of you who are living under a rock, the Savannah Bananas are a baseball team that mixes entertainment with the typically-known slow sport. They are known for their crazy antics and for turning baseball into a circus.

Brief History:

Timeline of the Bananas — By Jenna Arend

The Bananas have been around since 2016. The team was founded by Jesse Cole on a dream that he thought he might never reach on a whim to bring a sports team that had true fan loyalty. Cole knew he needed to do something different.

Though originally seen as something to mock, in the past few years of their existence, the Bananas have made a name for themselves.

The Bananas family is known to have a “Fans First” mentality. This means making sure the fans are the top priority. It is important to the brand that the fans are having a great time. Jesse Cole makes sure to set up plenty of opportunities for fans to meet and greet the players, take photos, get autographs, and have special memories made at the ballpark. After every game, the players come out to the promenade in front of the stadium to end the night with music, dancing, and a ton of high-fives.

The Savannah Bananas has two separate teams, a collegiate Summer team, and a premier team during the Spring.

The collegiate team plays normal baseball rules but with the addition of the entertainment factor such as dancing, crazy home run celebrations, and on-field fan promotions between innings. They are a part of the Coastal Plain League. The Bananas won the CPL Championship in their inaugural season in 2016, as well as for a second time in 2021.

Ty Jackson, CPL Championship 2021, Photo by Jenna Arend

The premier team roster is composed of older, non-collegiate athletes. They do not play baseball in the traditional way, but rather their own rules for their own game of “Banana Ball,” made by Jesse Cole. Banana Ball includes rules such as being allowed to steal first, no walks, and if a fan catches a foul ball, it is considered an out. Banana Ball also has a 2-hour time limit to speed up the game.

Due to the impact of social media, the Bananas have grown to become something huge. With over 2 million TikTok followers, they have used social media to the fullest extent.

Impacts of the Bananas:

The Savannah Bananas have become a staple for tourism but have also brought the community of Savannah, GA together. This has caused local tourist stores surrounding Savannah to carry Bananas merchandise. This way, if you cannot catch a game at the stadium, you can still bring home a piece of the Bananas with you!

They have brought fans from far and wide to Grayson Stadium to enjoy an entertaining day at the ballpark. At the beginning of every game, the MC asks who is from where. It is not surprising to hear when there is a fan visiting a game from thousands of miles away. They have brought in fans from California, Alaska, and tons of other West Coast states.

The Bananas have not only been starting records that have never been done before in the Coastal Plain League, like selling out every summer game, but also having their team play outside of the CPL.

The fan base has allowed the Banana’s premier league to start doing their Banana Ball World tour. The Bananas played against the Party Animals and visited cities outside of Savannah. This Spring, the teams traveled to Daytona Beach, FL, Birmingham, AL, Columbus, GA, and Kansas City, KS. They have allowed special guests to throw the first pitch, and even play in the games.

Their social media grew by storm and allowed for the team to become publicized on ESPN, mentioned on tv during an MLB game, and just about every other news outlet. With pitchers being brought to the mound by a police car, to the song “Bad Boys,” or even a batter taking his at-bat with a flaming bat, it is hard to not share these crazy moments online not expecting them to go viral.

What to Expect at a Bananas Game:

If you are going to a game during the Summer when baseball is played with historically-accurate rules, the games can still appear to have circus-like acts going on.

When you arrive and are waiting in line, the players and staff come out and partake in dances and give high-fives to fans in line.

There are numerous other pre-game ceremony activities like Banana Baby (think Simba from Lion King being held up by a player), or even a weigh-in against the other team if Macon is the opponent. You may even get chosen to try out for the Dad Bod Cheerleading Squad!

When the first run is scored by the Bananas, the whole team runs through the stands. Run celebrations after the first one includes pretending to be a DJ, a spank train, and even hitting a banana with a baseball bat.

After the second inning, players and the dancing first base coach, Maceo, perform a dance routine for the fans.

Player Dance — By Jenna Arend

Every inning that follows includes “promotions,” or games with fans or players such as dance-offs, pies to the face, and much more. Make sure to keep an eye out for the Banana Nanas, a highly enthusiastic group of dancing grandmas!

After every game, win or lose, fans are invited to have a “party out front” in the promenade with all the players. The DJ plays music and there are plenty of photo opportunities.

Just make sure you take advantage of the french fries at Grayson Stadium while you’re there, you can thank this article for that tip later.

Bananas Staff:

There have been a handful of prominent names that everyone has come to know and love due to their dedication to playing for the Bananas, but there is a lot of staff that may go unrecognized by the fans.

Lindsay Birchfield, an Athletic Trainer with a heart of gold from Georgia herself, spent a couple of seasons alongside the Bananas.

Lindsay Birchfield Audio

In a separate interview, Birchfield explained how she grew so fond of the players due to working in the dugout and training room with them on a daily basis. “The boys became like my children, and treating them was truly a treat. I remember I had to check out one of the players after they tried to learn how to do a backflip for one of the player dances. I remember joking with him and telling him he should stick to baseball.”

Birchfield has since moved on from the crazy Bananas lifestyle and has recently taken an Assistant Athletic Trainer position with the Bowie Baysox, a Baltimore Orioles affiliate.

L to R: Avery Hughes, Jenna Arend, Gillian Bay, and Lindsay Birchfield

Another prominent person behind the scenes is Avery Hughes, a past Entertainment Intern. Avery was in charge of not only getting the players to focus but also getting them engaged with fans. Avery worked on the field level as well by setting up and running the mid-game activities and games. She even helped a man propose to his wife on the field between innings in the Summer of 2021.

“Being a part of someone’s special day was unlike anything I’ve ever gotten to do. I never expected to help a proposal on a normal day of work,” said Hughes.

Avery Hughes after the proposal — By Jenna Arend

Fans also do not recognize the countless hours the staff puts in behind the scenes, and off the field.

Gillian Bay became a part of the Special Operations team for the Summer of 2021 and Spring of 2022. Bay explained how their workday started in the mornings, even if the game wasn’t scheduled until 7 pm, and they worked all day and all night and still had tasks to do after the games were over late into the night.

“I remember not getting out of the stadium office until 2 am on some nights. Between staff chats after the games when the players finally leave, but also waking up and getting to the field super early in the morning to help unload waters and sodas for the next day’s game,” explained Bay.

As a special ops staff member, everything behind the scenes like food, condiments, and merchandise, had to be accounted for on the delivery driver’s time. The heavy lifting was something Bay knew she had to do, but she was thankful for her fellow staff members for always keeping a smile on her face and making jokes to help the workload more fun.

Bananas Hall of Fame:

Many collegiate players have returned to Grayson Stadium every year to enjoy another amazing Summer representing their favorite team.

Some of these big names include Kyle Luigs, Bill Leroy, and Dan Oberst. These three players have returned to Savannah for countless Summers to keep their skills intact and become some of the most well-known names in the CPL.

Though Luigs, Leroy, and Oberst have outgrown their college eligibility, they took part in the Premier League in Spring 2022. The Bananas have grown with these boys on their team and they have become the faces of the team as well.

In Summer 2021, Leroy introduced himself over a microphone while heading to his at-bat, which was something that has never been done before and blew up on social media.

Bill Leroy announcing himself — By the Savannah Bananas TikTok

In Spring 2022, Luigs, a pitcher, took part in a TikTok trend where he danced on the mound before throwing a live pitch.

Kyle Luigs Dance on Mound — By the Savannah Bananas TikTok

Though these boys aren’t eligible to be a part of the Summer team any longer, their records, memories, and effort have not gone unnoticed.

In the Future:

The Bananas are scheduled to continue their collegiate summer ball activities in the Summer of 2022, with prominent players such as Eduardo Malinowski, Ty Jackson, and Nolan Daniels to return for yet another season.

Eduardo Malinowski after a homerun — CPL baseball, video made by Jenna Arend

The players that spend a season in Savannah grow with the staff and fans and become a part of the Bananas family. Their return to Grayson Stadium for another season is loved by fans, regardless of the outcome.

The Bananas are around now, and with their successes, will continue to thrive for many years to come.

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Jenna Arend

Jenna Arend

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