Have you heard of Banana Ball? It’s a version of classic baseball combined with a party atmosphere that rivals a circus. And in the center ring of this show is the Savannah Bananas team.
If you’re on social media, especially TikTok, you have likely seen this energetic team playing to sold-out crowds and entertaining them with their crazy antics. We’re talking about team members sitting in the stands to lip-sync with fans, a 10-foot player on stilts and epic walk-up dance routines as a player goes to the plate. Check out this recent viral video that’s racked up nearly 12 million views.
@thesavbananas Thank you Mariah Carey for this banger #savannahbananas #bananaball #baseballboys #mariahcarey #karaoke #fypシ #viral #trending #dancetrends #baseballlife ♬ original sound – 𝖘𝖆𝖓𝖙𝖎𝖆𝖌𝖔
This isn’t your grandfather’s brand of baseball, and that’s just how Savannah Bananas’ founder and owner Jesse Cole designed the game. He and his wife, Emily, who launched the team in 2016, had a vision for a different kind of baseball. They wanted a game that would keep the fans’ interest, regardless of age. That is the cornerstone of their team’s vision: “Fans first. Entertain always.”
“There are plenty of baseball teams to choose from,” Cole told People Magazine. “We are providing a different experience for the people who don’t want to sit through a three-hour baseball game with no music or dancing.”
So What Exactly Is Banana Ball?
Banana Ball keeps a few elements of traditional baseball. The team has nine players that play the same positions as a regular team (pitcher, catcher, etc.). The game is still broken down into innings, but it won’t necessarily be the nine innings we’re used to in a typical game.
And that’s where baseball and Banana Ball go their separate ways.
According to the official rules of Banana Ball, a game can only last two hours. That means no new inning can begin after an hour and 50 minutes. Comparatively, before Major League Baseball applied a new pitch-clock rule this season, an average game lasted 3 hours and 6 minutes in 2022.
Other major differences between baseball and Banana Ball include:
- No walks are allowed
- No bunting is allowed
- Teams only score if they earn the most run in an inning. Each inning is worth one point, except the final inning, where every run counts
- If a fan catches a foul ball, it’s an out for the batting team
Beyond the basic rules of Banana Ball, the game differs from baseball dramatically with all the entertainment provided by the two teams on the field, the umpires, the mascots and even the fans.
The goal is to keep things exciting for the fans with everything to watch and experience in addition to the plays on the field. It turns out the players enjoy it just as much as the fans.
Christian Dearman, a pitcher for the Savannah Bananas, talked to The Guardian in May about how players on the team go from having their sights on making it to the majors to appreciating what they bring to the game as a member of the Bananas.
“Our dream is to play big-league ball,” Dearman told The Guardian. “But when we were up there [playing in the independent leagues], it just wasn’t near as much fun as it was playing here, and we didn’t make near as much of an impact.”
The Origins of The Savannah Bananas Appeal
In 2015, the Coles bought a college summer baseball team to the historic Grayson Stadium in Savannah, Georgia, after a minor league team left the area for a new ballpark.
When the couple arrived at the stadium, almost everything was stripped from the facility: no phones, offices, furniture, or anything necessary to get a new team up and running. The couple learned they were overdrawn on their bank account just a few months into their new venture.
That’s when they made a critical, and some may say crazy, decision.
“It was at that point my wife and I…we decided we’re gonna sell our house, empty out our savings account, we’re going to come down here and get an air bed, and go all in,” Cole said in a video interview for the fan film, “The Savannah Bananas Story.”
Emily never doubted the result of their financial decision.
“We never thought it was going to totally fail because we were just so blindly optimistic,” she told People. “We just believed in it so much.”
Their faith started to pay off soon after they announced the team name in February 2016. The quirky name tapped into the fun atmosphere the Coles wanted to bring to the baseball community of Savannah.
Over the years, “The Greatest Show in Sports” has evolved to a level few could have predicted. With more than 600,000 fans on waiting lists for sold-out games across the country, the Savannah Bananas are poised to bring their brand of baseball to even more fans across the country—and maybe even the world.
“I don’t want to be a billion-dollar company. I want to be a billion-fan company,” Jesse told Success.com. “If you create a billion fans, everything else will take care of itself.”