The Savannah Bananas have received a major honor from the Coastal Plain League, having been named the circuit’s Organization of the Year.
In their first year at Grayson Stadium, the Bananas set several attendance records, include a new high mark for the Coastal Plain League. The team also successfully rolled out a unique business model in which every ticket is a $15, all-you-can eat package. Our Jarah Wright discussed the team’s robust debut with owner Jesse Cole in July.
“The Savannah Bananas had a storybook first season full of memories on and off the field,” said CPL COO and Commissioner Justin Sellers. “Jesse and Emily Cole, Jared Orton, and their entire staff did a fabulous job of creating an entertaining environment that put fans first, while head coach Sean West and his coaches and players put together a competitive team that brought home a championship to Savannah. This award honors the entire Savannah Bananas organization, their fans, and the City of Savannah. We look forward to more exciting times for the Savannah Bananas franchise!”
Savannah was chosen after collecting surveys, on every facet of an organization from game-day operations to overall hospitality and community involvement, from team owners, general managers, head coaches, umpires, players and league officials. From these, it was clear that the Bananas organization stood out as one to be honored in 2016 for excelling in every area possible.
“We are truly humbled to receive this award from Coastal Plain League and receive recognition from fellow owners and staff,” said Bananas owner Jesse Cole. “The reception from the Savannah community was beyond our wildest dreams and we are proud to share this honor along with the Petitt Cup with all of Savannah.”
The Bananas took over historic Grayson Stadium and produced not only the highest attendance numbers in Coastal Plain League history, but the second highest in all of summer collegiate baseball. Their numbers also marked the highest average attendance in the history of the stadium itself – of which has been home to multiple minor league franchises including most recently the Savannah Sand Gnats. In total, the Bananas brought in 91,004 fans across 25 home dates and three playoff games for an average of 3,250 fans each night. Included in this was 18 sellouts, coming out to a sellout percentage of 64% of all home games in a stadium with a capacity of over 4,000.
“This is a testament to our entire staff here in Savannah,” said owner Emily Cole. “They have worked tremendously hard year round to put the fans first in everything they do and we all couldn’t be more proud.”
New to the city of Savannah, it was important to the Cole’s that the Bananas become a fixture in the community. Through multiple promotional nights and events with player and staff around the city, the Bananas raised over $41,000 for non-profits within the community by seasons end.
The success was not solely limited to the stands or the community either, the Bananas were a hit on the field as well eventually earning the number one seed out of the West in the Petitt Cup Playoffs before going on to become the 2016 Coastal Plain League Champions with a two games to one win over the Peninsula Pilots in the Petitt Cup Championship Series. It was a team that finished the season in historic fashion by breaking the all-time CPL team batting average record coming in at .303, now tied with the 2016 Pilots for the best team batting average in CPL history. While no all-time records were set on the mound they were still one of the league’s best in 2016 finishing second in team earned run average at 3.56, helped along by Bananas’ pitcher and the league’s leader in ERA Beau Sulser (Dartmouth.)
Jesse and Emily both acknowledge none of this could be done without the great support of the city of Savannah as well as the Bananas staff which includes: President Jared Orton, Head Coach Sean West, Director of Sponsor Services Marie Gentry, Fan Development Coordinator Berry Aldridge, Director of Group Sales Daniel Mackerty, Group Sales Coordinator Patrick Briody, Corporate Marketing Director Mitch Torres, Marketing Coordinator Liz Bushaw, Office Coordinator Keke Coles, Community Outreach Director Lizzy O’Connell and all of the amazing interns and game-day staff that were integral to the Bananas success in 2016.