The Savannah Bananas baseball team has announced plans to stop playing in the Coastal Plain League to focus on showcasing its exhibition brand of ‘Banana Ball’ across the US.
The Bananas formed in 2016 to ensure that baseball remained in the city following the departure of the Savannah Sand Gnats, a former Minor League Baseball affiliate of the New York Mets. The Bananas have won three Petitt Cup Championships, including back-to-back titles in 2021 and 2022.
The team plays at Grayson Stadium, the former home of the Sand Gnats, and has sold out every home game since 2016. The ‘Banana Ball’ brand was launched in 2018 to place a focus on a fun, family-friendly game-day experience.
The Bananas announced yesterday (Wednesday) that the 2022 season will be the team’s last in the Coastal Plain League, a collegiate competition. Moving forward, the team will only be playing the exhibition-style ‘Banana Ball’ brand of baseball.
Rules of ‘Banana Ball’ include a two-hour time limit, no stepping out, no bunting and no walks. Foul balls caught by fans are also ruled as outs.
The team said that former Bananas players will return, along with professional players including ex-Major League Baseball stars. The Bananas are set to play more games both in Savannah and “all around the country”.
Games will be organised against rivals such as the Party Animals, as well as challengers such as the Kansas City Monarchs, the 2021 American Association champions who recently faced off against the Bananas.
Bananas owner Jesse Cole said: “The Coastal Plain League has been a great partner over the last seven years. They’ve helped us develop great players and even better people who have made an impact in our community. We are truly grateful for their support with this next step for the Bananas and Banana Ball.”
The Bananas currently have 80,000 fans on a waiting list for tickets and the team said the announcement will give it the freedom to create a schedule to take care of as many fans as possible.
Cole added: “We believe this is the most fans-first decision we’ve ever made as a company. For the past seven seasons, even with sold-out crowds and non-stop promotions and entertainment, we watched as fans still left our games early.
“With Banana Ball, we saw that 98% of the fans stayed until the end of the game. This was ground-breaking for the game of baseball. But most importantly, we heard from the players and thousands of fans that this was the most fun they had playing and watching baseball.”
Earlier this year, the Bananas travelled to six cities as part of the ‘Banana Ball World Tour’, with each game selling out. The team will reveal its 2023 World Tour in the first week of October, with over 20 cities set to form part of the schedule.
The Bananas won the Fan Experience Award at last month’s TheStadiumBusiness Awards in Manchester.
For more background on the Bananas’ story, check out our interview from earlier this year with team president Jared Orton.
Image: Savannah Bananas