Banana Ball began as an concept, most likely a loopy concept, to make baseball video games extra amusing and extra action-packed in a two-hour point in time.
The Savannah Bananas’ unconventional model of the sport later turned into a “One City World Tour” in Mobile, Alabama, in 2021 after which a regional excursion of 7 towns in 2022 within the Southeast and Kansas City whilst conserving house base at Savannah’s Grayson Stadium.
The Bananas went viral, packing stadiums and attracting tens of millions of fans on social media each inside of and past America’s borders with their wacky antics prior to, throughout and after video games.
They even had been the celebs of their very own documentary collection “Bananaland” in September at the ESPN+ streaming carrier, with are living video games additionally proven on ESPN2.
They made up our minds to move larger, a lot larger subsequent 12 months.
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On Tuesday night time, the group published its 2023 Banana Ball World Tour schedule with 70 video games in 33 towns in 20 states around the nation — together with 30 video games in Savannah between Feb. 17 and Sept. 16.
“We’re coast to coast,” mentioned workforce proprietor Jesse Cole on Tuesday, acknowledging the nationwide excursion is not international reasonably but. “We called it a world tour since Day 1 because we’re naming it for where we’re going, not for what we’re doing right now.”
The group had on Aug. 24 introduced that it used to be all in at the Savannah Bananas Premier Team, a certified touring workforce to play exhibitions of Banana Ball — maximum continuously towards designated foil the Party Animals but additionally different challengers from unbiased professional minor leagues and global groups, Cole mentioned.
The unique Bananas, a collegiate summer time league newbie workforce, existed from 2016-22 and received the Coastal Plain League championship in 2016, ’21 and ’22.
The Premier Team, a roster of former faculty and professional standouts with a sprinkling of former Major League Baseball gamers, will play a super-sized schedule in 2023.
Among the highights:
• Games in Triple-A towns together with Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Des Moines, Sacramento, Syracuse, Nashville, Oklahoma City and Las Vegas.
“The entertainment capital of the world,” Cole mentioned of Las Vegas. “Why wouldn’t the Bananas be playing there?”
• The schedule concludes Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, New York, on a collaborative effort with the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Yes, the Bananas and Party Animals will make it to Cooperstown.
“It’s a good finish right there,” Cole mentioned.
• Games in MLB spring coaching properties in West Palm Beach, Florida (Washington Nationals and Houston Astros); Tampa, Florida (New York Yankees); Scottsdale, Arizona (San Francisco Giants); and Peoria, Arizona (Seattle Mariners, San Diego Padres).
The Bananas may not be enjoying video games in main league ballparks, no less than no longer in 2023. Cole mentioned that a number of groups, together with the Boston Red Sox, have expressed hobby, and he visited Fenway Park final week.
“I think we both came to the agreement for 2023 there’s too much to overcome. It’s a big venture (at Fenway Park),” he mentioned.
Cole mentioned there is a very sturdy possiblity the Bananas will play in large league parks in 2024. He needs to position on the most efficient display imaginable, and the largest phases will take extra preparation.
“We know to put on the event we want to do, it takes a year-plus to plan at a major league park,” Cole mentioned. “When you’re taking 35,000 to 40,000 people, plus everything we do pregame with the march around the stadium, there are so many logistics.
“The making plans procedure is nearly beginning now to look if we will make it occur for 2024,” he added.
The selection process for the 2023 slate left out at least 50 cities that had shown interest through their teams, city governments and tourism officials, he said. They also were contacted by potential suitors in Canada and Mexico.
Criteria included stadium size of at least 4,000 (like Grayson) and the capacity to handle a potential full house in customer-service aspects such as concessions, restrooms and parking. That’s where Triple-A stadiums and their host cities have advantages.
The organization also is interested in expanding across America, and some areas just couldn’t be worked out for 2023 but will be considered in the future. They did lock in the West Coast with four cities in California.
“I feel the No. 1 factor we search for is an actual hobby and need to have us,” Cole said. “What’s it going to take? ‘We need you guys.’ An actual trust in what we are doing and our emblem, and figuring out that it is not a easy baseball sport. If you already know who we’re and what we are looking to do with that, that will get you within the door.”
The party travels by bus, plane
The Bananas’ traveling party, whether by bus or plane, will include more than 100 players, coaches, staff, the pep band and a cast of characters including a princess, a breakdancing first base coach, a dancing umpire, the Banana Nanas senior dance team and the Man Nanas Dad Bod Cheerleading Squad.
“We are so keen on developing fanatics and enjoying the lengthy sport,” Cole said. “We know are prices are going to be extravagent. Our prices are going to be in the course of the roof. But if we create fanatics and promote out ballparks, and get 10,000, 15,000, we imagine making a long-term fan is effective in what we are looking to do.”
Cole concentrates more on the fan experience and leaves the bookkeeping to his administrative staff, beginning with team president Jared Orton.
“When you play the lengthy sport,” Cole said, “if you do not make some huge cash however create a large number of fanatics and create an enjoy, the entirety looks after itself. I’ve preached that since Day 1.”
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Cole said while there is a nucleus of players committed to the Premier Team and Party Animals, an invitation-only tryout is planned for November. Cole said hundreds of players, including former major leaguers, have contacted the organization.
Former MLB All-Star pitcher Bill Lee was a Bananas regular at age 75 in 2022 and plans to be back next year. Much-more recent big leaguers making guest appearances were Jonny Gomes, Jake Peavy, Jonathan Papelbon and former South Effingham High School star Josh Reddick, a longtime supporter of the Bananas. Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench also participated as a first-base coach in West Palm Beach last spring.
Cole said to expect more appearances by former big leaguers with the team, which is co-managed by 11-year MLB player Eric Byrnes.
There will be only one practitioner of Banana Ball, unlike, for example, the multiple international touring squads of the Harlem Globetrotters.
The Bananas look to keep expanding for years beyond 2023, returning to some cities and visiting new ones with no end date in sight.
“We’re developing fanatics, we are having amusing. So the extra other people we will deliver to it, the easier,” Cole said. “There are tens of millions of fanatics available in the market.”
2023 Banana Ball Schedule
17-18 — at West Palm Beach, Florida
22-23 — at Daytona Beach, Florida
25 — Savannah vs. Party Animals
2 — Savannah vs. Party Animals
4 — at Jacksonville, Florida
10-11 — Savannah vs. challenger
13 — Savannah vs. Party Animals
17 — at Sugar Land, Texas
24-25 — at Montgomery, Alabama
31 — at Scottsdale, Arizona
1 — at Peoria, Arizona
6-7 — Savannah vs. Party Animals
13 — Savannah vs. Party Animals
15 — Savannah vs. Party Animals
18 — Savannah vs. Party Animals
21 — at Charleston, West Virginia
26 — Savannah vs. Party Animals
29 — at Tampa, Florida
5-6 — at Kansas City, Kansas
11 — Savannah vs. Party Animals
13 — Savannah vs. Party Animals
15 — Savannah vs. challenger
19 — at Las Vegas
26 — at Oklahoma City
29 — at Tulsa, Oklahoma
2 — at Nashville, Tennessee
8-9-10 — Savannah vs. challenger
12 — Savannah vs. challenger
15 — Savannah vs. Party Animals
17 — Savannah vs. Party Anmals
19 — Savannah vs. challenger
23-24 — at Birmingham, Alabama
30 — at Indianapolis
3 — at Akron, Ohio
7-8 — Savannah vs. challenger
12 — at Kannapolis, North Carolina
14 — at Durham, N.C.
17 — Savannah vs. challenger
21-22 — at Rancho Cucamonga, California
25 — at San Jose, California
27 — at Fresno, California
29 — at Sacramento, California
3 — Savannah vs. Party Animals
5 — Savannah vs. Party Animals
9 — at Trenton, New Jersey
11-12 — at Staten Island, New York
14 — at Hartford, Connecticut
16 — at Brockton, Massachusetts
18 — at Portland, Maine
25 — at Des Moines, Iowa
30 — Savannah vs. Party Animals
1 — Savannah vs. Party Animals
2 — Savannah vs. challenger
4 — Savannah vs. Party Animals
8-9 — at Milwaukee, Wisconsin
14 — at Syracuse, N.Y.
16 — at Cooperstown, N.Y.
Nathan Dominitz is the Sports Content Editor of the Savannah Morning News and savannahnow.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @NathanDominitz