The Savannah Bananas Experience Is Even Better Than I Imagined: OutKick Field Report

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My mission this weekend was simple: Go to Savannah, Georgia to see if the Savannah Bananas Baseball Experience is as spectacular as it appears on social media.

The results: It’s even better than I could’ve imagined.

It’s not hyperbole to say that the Savannah Bananas have revolutionized baseball entertainment for sports fans who’ve become disheartened by rising prices, lack of entertainment, and the fun being ripped out of sports by television networks who need to stuff two hours of commercials into one hour of action.

It’s baseball entertainment on steroids. It’s like attending the circus while mixing in all the hottest hits being played by club DJs. There’s a guy on stilts. There’s a rodeo clown pitcher throwing smoke who’s even better in person than on the viral TikTok videos. It’s like a college frat party that grandparents feel comfortable enough to attend.

Three-time MLB All-Star Heath Bell got off the bus and immediately let the Bananas know he was ready to play some Banana Ball. / Joe Kinsey

It’s like going to a movie where you cannot get up to go take a leak because you’re worried you’ll miss a moment of the show.

Now it’s just a matter of the Bananas spreading the gospel on their 2023 world tour that is going to turn the Bananas into rock stars.

Saturday, I was lucky enough to get the full Nanners experience thanks to my neighborhood buddy former MLB pitcher Collin Balester, who was playing that night for the MLB Alumni Association team against the Bananas. Late last year, the MLBAA was presented with an opportunity to face the Bananas in a three-game test series the Bananas are calling a Challenger Series. Saturday it was time to see what would happen when you take former MLB guys who’ve barely swung a bat or thrown a ball in years against a team that practices bare-handed fly ball catches for a living.

The premise for the Challenger Series is simple: the former MLB guys want to get back on the field to see if they still got it, but they must play by the Banana Ball rules, which are the most fan-friendly rules in sports history, but rules the MLB guys have never experienced.

The Nanners Baseball Experience: Is this the Harlem Globetrotters of Baseball?

That’s the question I hear over and over when it comes to the Bananas like it’s some sort of insult to be compared to a basketball organization founded in 1926 and has played in front of 148 million fans in 123 countries.

Yes, there are undeniable similarities, but there are huge differences that are evident in the win-loss column. While the Globetrotters never lose to the Washington Generals — last time the Generals won was January 5, 1971 — the Savannah Party Animals, the arch nemesis of the Bananas, win games. In fact, the Party Animals just won 5-4 on March 2.

Things I learned from one night of Banana Ball:

  1. Your ticket (someone told me tickets are $25) includes all-you-can-eat burgers, dogs, chips, Cokes, water, chicken sandwiches. Families walk up, make their orders, the concession worker puts it in a paper bag like you’d get at the grocery store and mom and dad are off to their seats.
  2. Concession lines move FAST when there are no credit card transaction or card machines to depend on. Grayson Stadium is tiny and the Bananas concession lines move faster than any other concession stand I’ve seen in the last 15 years. Seriously, if you’re running a sports organization, you better come study what these people are up to.
  3. The Bananas have very few assigned seats. Yes, there are sponsors who get folding seats. The rest of the place is general admission and people line up what felt like two hours before the game to get in.
  4. Fans are let into the stadium over three different waves. I’m not sure of the full details, but it seems like something straight out of Southwest Airlines with A-B-C zoning to board a plane. And it’s completely necessary at Grayson Stadium or the place would be overwhelmed by families trying to get the prime seats behind home plate.
  5. There’s no tax on items purchased inside the stadium. A $25 t-shirt is $25. A Slippery Banana mixed drink is $10. There are beer guys slinging cold ones in the seats. The house brew, Savannah Banana Beer, from Service Brewing Co. sells for $5.
  6. It’s true, it’s very, very hard to get tickets to a Bananas game. My buddy Balester was telling me he heard there were fans from 40 states at Saturday’s game. The guy sitting next to me, who appeared to be a retiree loving life, was from Seattle.
  7. Saturday’s game was the fastest in Bananas’ history. I don’t have the official time, but I had it at about one hour and 25 minutes.
  8. No, you’re not getting ripped off by a game that doesn’t go the full two hours. When is the last time you stayed at a boring minor league game longer than 90 minutes with your little kids?
  9. Yes, women are going to LOVE Banana Ball. Between the Party Animals team and the Bananas, these guys are going to break some hearts across the country this summer. You’ll have Bananas’ players walking around with roses in their mouths looking for women who deserve a rose. You get Party Animals players dancing shirtless on the dugouts. The Jersey Chasers are in for a big summer trying to connect with these heartthrobs.
  10. Your kids are going to love Stilts. There might not be a more intriguing guy in all of baseball. He’s the Ohtani of baseball entertainment. He can pitch (on stilts) and he can hit (on stilts). The purists might hate it, but those of us who love to laugh and enjoy the absurdities of sports love Stilts.

Quick hitters:

• I lost count of the bits run by the Bananas’ promotion team. There are babies racing, dancing grandmas (the Nanas), dads doing dizzy bat competitions, the raising of the baby, the rotten or ripe banana tasting, the boys dancing shirtless with the Party Animals on the visitors’ dugout, Jesse Cole throwing t-shirts in the crowd, baseballs being hit into the stands so people can practice the ‘Catch a foul ball and it’s an out’ rule, etc.

• The Party Animals actually live the Party Animal lifestyle. We ended up at the Party Animals’ post-game party hotspot in downtown Savannah and these guys go hard. The rule is pretty much if you see a wild mullet on a guy who works out, he plays for the Animals.

• Yes, the Bananas have their own yellow game balls.

• While talking to Bananas’ coach Adam “Viro” Virant, he couldn’t stop talking about how this is the best job he’s ever had and it’s like living a dream. I thought he might shed a tear.

• Bananas umpire Vincent Chapman is a treasure. I spoke to him for a few minutes before Saturday’s game and all he kept saying is how much fun he’s having as the most electric umpire in baseball. We’re talking about the happiest umpire in baseball.

• It feels like the Bananas employ 50% of the community. There must be 500 people or more working during a Bananas game. There are people recording everything. There are entertainment production people running around.

• Yes, there’s a considerable amount of rehearsal time before first pitch. The MLB alumni bus got to the stadium around 3:30 for a 7 p.m. first pitch and it was non-stop action the entire time. There are bats being lit on fire, mic checks, batting practice and guys practicing dances on the pitchers’ mound before fans ever get into the stadium.

• I had a great time talking to Orestes Destrade about baseball, the new pitch clock rules, and his life in the game, especially that 1993 season when he was tearing it up for the Marlins. The guy is a baseball encyclopedia who can also answer just about anything you want to know about life playing baseball in Japan.

• I’m told the MLB alumni escaped Saturday without any injuries, which is a great sign heading into a rematch against the Bananas in late April at George M. Steinbrenner Field. These guys need to keep the hamstrings attached so they can get through the three-game series.

• You have to keep your head on a swivel or you’ll miss things like bananas in a gun holster:

• Heath Bell working on one of those Banana beers while talking to the modern-day Bill Veeck:

• Stilts turning kids into life-long Banana fans:

• That’s my neighbor Balester with the heaviest barrel I’ve ever tried to lift. Seriously, it’s insane to think of what a bull can do to a barrel when it’s so incredibly heavy. Rodeo clown pitcher Mat Wolfe is just a different animal in the sports world when you think he’s willing to get in there to be hit by bulls and to be rolled out to the mound in this thing:

Conclusion:

Find a stop on the Banana Ball tour and get tickets. Get your buddies together. Get your family together. Get your frat together. There’s plenty of action here for the sorority girls. Take grandpa. Grandma will enjoy it.

You won’t be disappointed. Trust me.

Written by Joe Kinsey

Joe Kinsey is the Senior Director of Content of OutKick and the editor of the Morning Screencaps column that examines a variety of stories taking place in real America.

Kinsey is also the founder of OutKick’s Thursday Night Mowing League, America’s largest virtual mowing league.

Kinsey graduated from University of Toledo.

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