Savannah Bananas Hit West SacramentoAug 11, 2023 12:00AM ● By By Michele Townsend
The crowd at Sutter Health Park got many opportunities to meet the Savannah Bananas players with all their quirks. Photo by Michele Townsend
WEST SACRAMENTO (MPG) - Sutter Health Park, home of the River Cats, had an exciting event last Saturday, July 29th, 2023. The Savannah Bananas came to West Sacramento, and it was a packed house! The crowd was filled with excitement as people came from as far away as Canada to see the Savannah Bananas.
Savannah, Georgia has a ballpark, Grayson Stadium and it was the home of the Savannah Sand Gnats. Jesse Cole and his wife Emily decided they were going to bring back baseball to Savannah. When they arrived the ballpark was empty with no furniture, no internet, and they had no idea how they were going to create a team that would make it big.
They spent the first several months not making any money at all. Jesse and his wife sold their home to pay the players. They decided they were “all in”. The couple moved into a studio apartment and slept on an air mattress. They knew that they needed to do something big and crazy that would draw people. They named the team Savannah Bananas! Publicity was crazy when they picked the name Bananas. They got mixed feelings about the name, but everyone was talking about them.
Savannah Bananas got ready to play their first game, which was sold out at Grayson Stadium. It was pouring down rain and they played horribly but they formed fans. Merchandise was selling like crazy and game after game was sold out. Jesse thought that the fans were getting bored and decided they needed to keep it entertaining. They began dancing, interacting with the fans in a big way and having a great time… while playing baseball. Banana popularity has just continued to grow.
The crowd at Sutter Health Park was so excited, but most had no idea what they were in for. The entertainment is nonstop. The Bananas want it to be the best experience from beginning to end. This includes interacting with the crowd throughout their visit. Some examples of this are the team walking out of the park before the gates opened and all of the players walking through the crowd shaking hands, taking pictures, signing autographs and just having fun with the crowd. This practice continued throughout the game. Players that were not playing were walking through the park and mingling with the crowd.
From before the game starts until after the game ends there is nonstop music and entertainment, often involving the crowd in competitions. The players and umpire dance, there is a player that wears and plays (pitcher) in stilts and Jesse Cole always has on a bright yellow tuxedo.
There are a few rule changes in Banana baseball. There is no bunting, the players dance, they have a dancing umpire, if the crowd disagrees with a call there is a representative that is chosen from the crowd to challenge the call. In addition, if a foul ball is hit and caught by a fan, that batter is out. The game is interrupted many times for quick games, usually involving a small child and often involving the crowd.
Banana pitcher Kyle Luigs said, “In addition to all of the dancing and fun, we actually have very good baseball players”. Kyle said that they’ve all been playing baseball for a lot longer than they’ve been dancing and carrying on. The Savannah Bananas played against the Party Animals, a team also owned by Jesse and Emily Cole. “Our show travels with about 120 people,” said Kyle.
Sacramento was the last stop in the Savannah Bananas’ California tour. Former San Francisco Giants All-Star Hunter Pence arrived on an electric scooter. It was very memorable, and then the power went out. The game was called, and the stadium eventually emptied, but the parking lot didn’t. Much of the crowd, players and cast stayed in the parking lot for quite a while after the game and had a good time.