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Savannah Bananas departing Coastal Plain League; will focus on Banana Ball year-round

CrowdEnteringBallpark-Savannah Bananas

The Savannah Bananas are departing the summer-collegiate Coastal Plain League and will play Banana Ball year-round both in Savannah and around the country.

The Bananas have operated in two different modes for the past few years, playing under summer-collegiate rules for the Coastal Plain League as a purely amateur endeavor while launching Banana Ball exhibitions in the offseson. Starting in 2023, the Bananas will play every game with the rules of Banana Ball. Rules that include a two-hour time limit, no stepping out, no bunting, no walks, and foul balls caught by fans are outs.

Team founder Jesse Cole explained Banana Ball during a podcast interview with Jesse Goldberg-Strassler and Kevin Reichard as the recipient of the 2021 Ballpark Digest Editor’s Choice Award. You can watch the video here.

The 2022 season will be the last season that the Bananas play college summer league baseball in the Coastal Plain League. The Bananas were members of the league since the team’s inception in 2016, and have won three Petitt Cup Championships, including back-to-back titles in 2021 and 2022.

“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 of their support with this next step for the Bananas and Banana Ball,” Cole said via press release.

The shift to a year-round Banana Ball schedule gives the team the opportunity to schedule more games both in Savannah and all over the country, in order to accommodate more Bananas fans. With 80,000 fans on the Banana Ball waiting list for tickets, this gives the Bananas freedom to create a schedule to take care of as many fans as possible.

The Bananas roster will now be made up of all professional players, including former Bananas and MLB stars. They will play their rival the Party Animals as well as other professional teams, both in Savannah and all over the country.

“Since we arrived in Savannah in 2016, we’ve been relentlessly focused on creating a better fan experience and have been watching and listening to our fans every step of the way,” 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 percent of the fans stayed until the end of the game. This was groundbreaking 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.”

Banana Ball was played for the first time as an exhibition game in 2018 where a nine-inning game was completed in 99 minutes. In 2020, the Bananas played Banana Ball in Savannah in front of Bananas fans before taking the game on the road for the first time in 2021.

This past spring, the Bananas traveled to six cities on the “Banana Ball World Tour” and sold out every game. The tour was captured as an ESPN+ original series “Bananaland” that premiered on August 19 on ESPN2. The five-part docuseries takes fans behind the scenes of the Banana Ball tour and airs every Friday on ESPN+ through September 16.

During the tour, the Bananas played two games against the American Association defending champion, the Kansas City Monarchs, in front of record crowds at Legends Field.

In addition to the Party Animals, the Bananas will play other professional teams from the top independent leagues in the country.  Fans can expect more of these challenger games to be played year-round in both Savannah and on the road.

“We will be bringing the highest level of talent to the Bananas both with baseball and entertainment, said Bananas Coach, Tyler Gillum. “We now have the freedom to sign any player from all over the world, which will bring new excitement to Bananaland.”

The 2023 World Tour and schedule will be released the first week of October. The Bananas will visit over 20 cities and the tour will start in February and run through September.

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