What is ‘Banana Ball’? 20 things we saw during the Savannah Bananas’ stop in Brockton.

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Dances, acrobatic catches in the outfield, and celebrity appearances are regular sights at Bananas games.

MAY 11: Dakota "Stilts" Albritton #14 of the Savannah Bananas pitches against the Party Animals at Grayson Stadium on May 11, 2023 in Savannah, Georgia. Albritton plays Banana Ball on Stilts. He plays the field, bats, and he pitches all while wearing a pair of stilts while playing.
Players balancing ladders on their chin, playing on stilts and doing backflips at home plate are regular sights during Bananas games. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

BROCKTON, Mass. — Campanelli Stadium played host to the most sought-after ticket in baseball on Wednesday night.

No — not the Red Sox, Yankees, or any other club in MLB.

We’re talking about the Savannah Bananas — the exhibition baseball squad that is taking the sport by storm, selling out arenas across the U.S. and injecting new wrinkles into a century-old game.

The Bananas, who play their own fan-focused, entertainment-heavy brand of baseball called “Banana Ball,” primarily play their games at their field in Savannah, Grayson Stadium.

But throughout this year, the Bananas have embarked on a 33-city, 22-state “world tour,” with the team already completely selling out at all of their various stops.

Their unique brand of baseball has regularly made them go viral on social media and has even raised questions about facets of the pro game, especially in regards to pace of play.

So what exactly is a game of “Banana Ball” like? We stopped by Campanelli Stadium to check out the Bananas’ lone game in Massachusetts this year, with the fan favorites taking on their partner touring team, the Party Animals.

Here are 20 things that stood out from a memorable night at the ballpark.

1. A musical introduction

There was a large crowd outside the ballpark close to two hours before first pitch on Wednesday, as the Bananas got the festivities started early with a pregame entrance that featured a lead-in from the team’s pep band.

The Bananas players and owner Jesse Cole — wearing his trademark yellow tuxedo — high-fived their way through the crowd before breaking out into the first (of many) team dances on the steps leading up the main gate at Campanelli Stadium.

With a burst of confetti, the gates finally opened at the ballpark and fans rushed up to grab their seats. The Bananas players greeted the close to 5,000 spectators as they made their way up the steps, doling out plenty of fist-bumps and selfies.

2. Keeping the party going

Fans who made it to the stadium early still found plenty of entertainment upon settling into their seats.

Whether it be players balancing bats and ladders on their chin or fans catching bananas from the stands while wearing oversized pants, the pre-game itinerary mapped out by the Bananas is extensive.

When the time came for both the Bananas and Party Animals to be introduced, a burst from the smoke machines atop the home dugout marked the start of a frenzied sequence that saw an impromptu dance party break out around a speaker set, a series of gravity-defying bat flips being showcased, and an impressive backflip performed at home plate.

There’s … a lot to take in before the first pitch is even delivered.

3. The “Banana Baby” 

One of the many pregame traditions for the Bananas leading up to first pitch features the “Banana Baby” ceremony, when a young Bananas fan from the crowd is taken onto the field and celebrated by the players around the pitcher’s mound.

Cue The Lion King music.

4. Trick plays aplenty

Even though the Bananas and Party Animals are exhibition baseball rosters, there is still plenty of impressive talent sprinkled across the diamond.

Whether it be backflip catches in center field, barehanded snags in right or sit-down grabs at the hot corner, the players have a knack for making even routine outs exciting during these games.

5. Dances … plenty of dances

With a soundtrack of pop hits and stadium anthems blasting throughout the game, it was all but inevitable that a few dances were going to break out during Wednesday’s game.

But just about every inning? Such was the case for both the Bananas and the Party Animals.

Whether it be team-wide dances in between innings, Irish step along the dugout, or celebrations at home plate after a run scores, both rosters managed to get plenty of exercise in beyond what plays out at the plate, in the field, and along the base paths.

6. A frenzied “walk”

One way to ramp up the excitement of the game lies in the augmentation of walks in the “Banana Ball” format.

When ball four is called at the plate, the hitter does not simply advance to first. It signals the start of a mad sprint, with the hitter only forced to stop after the ball is thrown to every fielder — including the three outfielders.

It often leads to a frantic sequence where outfielders rush into the infield in order to halt the hitter, with a rushed and panicked throw potentially leading the way for a once-harmless walk to turn into an inside-the-park home run.

7. An appearance from Johnny Damon

The Bananas have had no shortage of former MLB stars making appearances during games this season.

On Wednesday, former Red Sox star and 2004 World Series champion Johnny Damon emerged from the dugout as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the first inning. He promptly laced an RBI single into right field to open the scoring for the Bananas — setting off a party out along the first-base line.

8. A different scoring system 

Damon’s RBI single in the first held a lot more weight than just a simple run-scoring play, given “Banana Ball’s” unique scoring system.

Rather than accumulating runs throughout a game, Bananas games are scored by points.

Teams get a point for scoring the most runs in an inning. If the teams are scoreless or score the same amount, that inning is even and you go to the next one.

Damon’s RBI single in the bottom of the first represented the lone run of the frame, thus giving the point to the Bananas.

9. Raining donuts 

Fan giveaways and other promotions are a tried-and-true way to get fans at stadiums across all major sports.

But the Bananas opt for some pretty easy avenues to give their fans some food or gear — and usually deliver them in a prompt manner.

One promotion promised fans free donuts if arty Animals batter Garett Delano struck out. When he whiffed for his third strike, Bananas players immediately fired donut holes into the crowd.

10. Fan challenge

One new wrinkle added to “Banana Ball” this season falls in the fan challenge rule. Not only does each team have a chance to challenge one ruling (fair/foul ball, force/tag play call, catches) in a game, one fan is also bestowed the honor during a pregame ceremony to be the “judge” of a potential challenge call.

If that fan sees a play they want to challenge, they fire off a blast of confetti from their seat in order to call for a review. Wednesday’s fan challenge opted for a review of a close call at first that resulted in an infield single for the Party Animals. Upon review, the call was upheld.

11. Dancing umpires

Both the Bananas and the Party Animals are far from the only individuals out on the diamond who opt to cut a rug at the first opportunity. Throughout Wednesday’s game, the Bananas’ home-plate umpire danced with players at the plate, both catchers and … well, just about anyone who walked in his general vicinity.

As expected, his strike-three calls were emphatic — usually highlighted by some twerking or impressive throwback dances like The Worm.

Joe West would be appalled.

12. Unique fan competitions 

Whether it be “Dad bod dance-offs,” racing fleet-footed Bananas players on the base paths, or the classic “Father-Son catch” (where dads have to catch both of their sons as they run across the field), there is no shortage of entertaining fan competitions during what few lulls there are between innings.

13. Catching passes from Flutie 

The Bananas welcomed another Boston sports legend during Wednesday’s game, calling on former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback Doug Flutie in the sixth inning. Before taking the mound to close out the frame, he called a football play with his new teammates, eventually lofting a pigskin over to outfielder Noah Bridges.

Flutie later took part in a fan competition where he tried to complete a pass to fans that were donning blindfolded helmets. Unfortunately, Flutie wasn’t able to link up on any of his pass attempts, striking one fan in the side of his helmet.

14. Head on a swivel for foul balls

One of “Banana Ball’s” most fan-focused rules helped Flutie escape a jam in the sixth inning.

During Bananas games, if a fan catches a foul ball in the stands, it counts as an out. A slick grab from one patron signaled the third out of the inning for the Party Animals, with the fan getting an ovation on the field for his efforts.

15. The tallest baseball player ever?

The Bananas’ roster is chock full of talented athletes capable of making circus-like catches in the outfield, stealing bases at will, and golfing balls into the cheap seats.

But few can replicate what Dakota Albritton brings to the team. The Ellaville, Georgia native is tough to miss … considering he plays the entire game on stilts.

While Albritton has made appearances on the mound for the Bananas (doing his best Randy Johnson impression), he stepped up to the plate on Wednesday, prompting the home-plate umpire to prop himself up on a box to counter the height disadvantage.

16. A fan-led light show 

As Wednesday’s game started to wind down in the later innings, the Bananas turned off the lights at Campanelli Stadium and encouraged fans to turn on the flashlights on their phones to bring about a sudden light show.

As each phone-powered beacon waved across the stadium as one, the Bananas played Coldplay’s “Yellow” and encouraged fans to sing along.

17. Speeding things up

A majority of the “Banana Ball” rules focus on ways to speed up the pace of play during a game.

Some of them include:

No stepping out of the batter’s box. If a hitter does so, they’re assessed a strike.

No bunting. At all. If a hitter does lay down a bunt, they’re automatically ejected from the game.

No mound visits are permitted as well.

18. A time limit? 

Even with these various rules designed to limit the dead time that can get fans to start peering at their phones, the Bananas have another measure in place to ensure that their games are brisk: a running clock.

Starting from first pitch, a countdown regularly ticks away. After 1:50 of action, no new innings are played. The Bananas and Party Animals did not run into a time crunch in what was a low-scoring game on Wednesday.

But in lopsided blowouts, a running clock stands as a way to wrap things up in a timely fashion.

19. No-man’s land during extra innings

You thought the “ghost runner” rule during extra innings was extreme in MLB?

When a game is tied after nine innings (or the team’s running two-hour time limit ends), the Bananas opt for a “Showdown Tiebreaker.”

In the first round, the defense gets only a pitcher, catcher, and one fielder. If the batter puts the ball in play, he must try to round the bases and score before the ball is chased down and thrown home for an out.

Both teams get chances to try to match each other by scoring a run. However, if either team clubs a home run, the game is automatically over.

20. A walk-off … and a loss for the Bananas? 

Ultimately, the latter scenario played out for the Party Animals, who drilled a pitch past the fence in right field for a walk-off home run and a 3-2 win in Brockton.

Despite the result and the entertainment-focused angle of these games, the Bananas also pride themselves on not hosting scripted events — and have lost multiple times this season to the Party Animals.

The Bananas have left their stamp on baseball thanks to their variety of rule changes. But they aren’t messing with baseball’s trademark unpredictability — even if it doesn’t always pan out in their favor.

Originally posted 2023-08-17 10:07:38.


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