Savannah Bananas baseball team supports 2022 Coastal Plains league season
So many people want to see the spectacle that is Savannah Bananas baseball, the team added an exhibition game May 24 at Grayson Stadium.
Not that it did much to detract from the demand to watch the college summer league ball club perform.
“The waiting list is over 40,000 tickets,” Bananas co-owner Jesse Cole said Friday. “When we put tickets on sale for June and July (league games), it didn’t even come close. … It was gone within the first hour.”
The Bananas introduced their fans to the first baseball-based entertainment goal in their inaugural 2016 season – an overload of music, song, dance and comedy tracks involving players, coaches and a growing number of characters interacting with spectators before, during and after matches. .
The Bananas could also play ball, winning the Coastal Plain League title.
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The ball club return as defending champions in 2022 after winning their second crown last season. The Bananas are at home against the Florence Flamingos (SC) at 7 p.m. on May 26, and all 24 home games are complete until the regular season finale on July 30 against the Wilmington Sharks (NC).
But first, college players will play a preseason contest against the Bananas Premier Team, a collection of professional and former college players on May 24 to highlight Banana Fest at 5:30 p.m. at Grayson Stadium.
The format will be Banana Ball, an unorthodox version of the game with rules to speed up play and create more action and drama. Basic rules include a two-hour time limit, no mound visits, no exiting the batter’s box, and foul balls caught by fans are ruled out.
Banana Ball is so popular that the team specifies on its website which contests are Banana Ball and which are the traditional CPL nine-inning games. The May 24 game sold around 4,100 tickets in a matter of hours, Cole said, and since it’s bananas, that’s not all.
“We also bought over 2,000 banana suits to break the world record for the most people in banana suits at one event, which is going to be awesome,” said Cole, who wears a yellow tuxedo. banana and accessories for all team related appearances. , including when addressing businesses and corporations.
Because Cole and company can’t get enough, he launched his second book on Tuesday. The author of “Find Your Yellow Tux: How to Be Successful by Standing Out” in January 2018 has a new book: “Fans First: Change the Game, Break the Rules, Create an Unforgettable Experience”.
His wife, co-owner of the Emily Cole team, is also the author of a children’s book “Go Bananas!” in 2021.
Cole said on Friday he was “blown away” by hundreds of pre-orders for the book.
“The response was overwhelming and exciting sharing stories that most people never knew about our players, our staff, the things that were happening, what we were trying to do to create Fans First moments” , did he declare. “I’m very excited for the launch.”
Heavily invested in their social media presence — including 2.5 million followers on TikTok — the Bananas are spreading the word through a long-running outlet.
“Having a book is another way to reach more fans and share the story and also hopefully inspire others to look at their lives and how they can create fans and try to create moments and to be part of unforgettable things,” Cole mentioned. “That’s what we’re trying to do.”
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No more Banana Ball at the end of the summer
Banana Ball will be back after the CPL season with home dates on Friday and Saturday on August 19-20, August 26-27, and September 2-3. Tickets went on sale May 17.
Cole also mentioned the possibility of a road game “a very big surprise” in the fall but did not reveal more, because it is a surprise.
The Bananas Premier team is ahead of Cole’s plan for the franchise by 2025. Spun off from the varsity team, the travel team has an in-house foil in another professional outfit, the Party Animals. Rosters are formed before the series opens from the same talent pool, and teams play direct.
After testing the first incarnations of Banana Ball since 2018, the ball club played a limited spring series in 2021 under pandemic protocols with two home games and a “One City World Tour” in Mobile, Alabama. Players felt like rock stars as they sold out two nights with seats limited to 3,500 for social distancing at Hank Aaron Stadium.
A more ambitious Spring 2022 series of games in Savannah and six other cities, played 13 games since March, sold out every night and garnered national media attention.
“Our vision for 2025 was that we’ll go to eight cities by 2025,” Cole said. “We will be in 20-25 cities next year. The speed and momentum is greater than we could have imagined in terms of resonance and impact.”
Going out all the way in Kansas City
Bus trips this spring to Columbus, Georgia, as well as Daytona Beach and West Palm Beach, Florida; and Montgomery and Birmingham, Alabama, were tracked by the team’s only 1,000-mile air travel from Kansas City, Missouri.
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The Bananas’ opponent on May 6-7 was unfamiliar with the Party Animals. The Kansas City Monarchs are a minor league independent team that won the 2021 American Professional Baseball Association title. The 2022 roster includes veterans Matt Adams and Pete Kozma, who were in the big leagues in 2021.
“It was the most nervous game I’ve ever had,” Cole said. “It was a statement game. A lot of people say what the Bananas are doing is a joke, it’s a scripted circus. I’m one of the first to say it’s a circus and a game baseball is breaking out, but the fact that it’s good baseball, high-level baseball, I think, that brings it all together is the glue of circus and entertainment.
The Bananas had a depleted roster, as the players had left to start playing for professional teams all season, so they became a hybrid with the Party Animals. Jonny Gomes, 41, a big leaguer from 2003-15, joined at the invitation of Bananas manager Eric Byrnes, 46, in MLB from 2000-10. Gomes and Byrnes – calling on himself to pinch the shot – contributed to the cause.
The team still had Bill Lee, 75, the former All-Star and World Series starter for the Boston Red Sox who hasn’t stopped pitching since his last major league game in 1982. One of MLB’s all-time characters, the left-hander pitched a clear inning in a game and walked out of the stands after drinking a beer to strike out a Monarchs batter.
“He literally drank a whole beer,” Cole recalled. “He blows it, throws it behind him, then gets an out to get out of an inning. It was legendary. Only Bill Lee can be the one to do that.”
They brought the whole circus to town. About 100 people in the trip party, from players, coaches and reception staff to dance referees, male cheerleaders, a cheer band, Disney-like Princess Potassia, a magician, pitcher of tricks and a trick beater.
On the field, the Monarchs scored six runs in the first inning and won Game 1, but the Bananas responded by splitting the series in Game 2. selling $20 Notes in the secondary market for $100 or more.
“Kansas City was a big party for the Bananas. It proved so much to us,” Cole said.
“We really did everything to make sure they would see a great show. That’s the goal going forward. We want to deliver the full show and give people something they’ve never seen before on a baseball diamond.”
Nathan Dominitz is the sports content editor for Savannah Morning News and savannahnow.com. Email him at [email protected] Twitter: @NathanDominitz