Georgia baseball with a twist: How the Savannah Bananas put a spin on the sport, delighting fans

The main purpose of the game is ensuring fans have an enjoyable experience, team owner Jesse Cole said. (The Savannah Bananas)

Meet the Savannah Bananas — a minor league team playing ball for the enjoyment of thousands of fans. 

The Savannah, Georgia-based team plays ball during the regular baseball season, but this ball game is different.

Think basketball's Harlem Globetrotters with a dash of old-style carnival mixed in — and a bit of Abbott and Costello, too. 

The Savannah Bananas play "banana ball," or baseball with a twist. 

They play a two-hour (maximum) game with no walks — and each inning is worth one point. 

The game, created by team owner Jesse Cole, has unique rules. The over-arching goal is to bring a fun experience to the fans in the stands.

The male cheerleading team and the Banana Breakdancers are some of the popular attractions that add to spectators' experience. (The Savannah Bananas)

Fox News Digital spoke with Cole about the Bananas and how this sports culture came to be.

"We had a dream that we could make baseball fun, if we could just get people to come see it," he said. 

Cole and his wife, Emily, bought the Savannah minor league team in 2016. They also obtained approval to play at the iconic Grayson Stadium, he said.

Grayson Stadium has seen many legends over the years — Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson among them. It's served as the home base for the Bananas since their first game, said Cole. 

Shortly after purchasing the team, the Coles named it the Savannah Bananas, which instantly grabbed the attention of the community, he said.

There are comical and fun aspects to a Bananas game — including a ball coach that break-dances throughout the innings and a "baby of the game."

The Banana Baby of the game is chosen from among the crowd and held up for the entire audience to see, Cole said.

"That started getting attention because we came up with the Bananas Nanas, the senior citizen dance team, and the male cheerleading team, and the break-dancing coach, the Banana Baby and the Banana Band," he said. 

Since then, the team has sold out every single game. It has a waitlist of over 600,000 people seeking tickets for Grayson Stadium, said Cole.

The Banana Baby of the game is chosen from among the crowd — and held up for the audience to see. (The Savannah Bananas)

The Bananas were part of the Coastal Plain League up until last year, when they officially left the league to tour the country instead. They're currently touring, he said.

Some of the team's players are actual baseball players; some are first-round Major League prospects. 

"We actually have former major leaguers who join us pretty regularly," Cole said. 

The audience-first vision for the Savannah Bananas comes to fruition every game night, thanks to those behind the scenes, including a team dedicated to creative ideas, said Cole. 

He comes up with plans, too, waking every morning and writing down 10 new ideas. 

"I’ve done this since 2018, so that’s thousands of not-so-good ideas, but there’s some gold in there," he said. 

During the COVID pandemic, the team shifted gears, interacting with fans and spreading joy through social media.

Savannah Bananas fans tend to dress up as bananas for the games. (The Savannah Bananas)

"It all started with painting a vision," Cole said of their efforts, noting that at the time, he would say, "Nothing’s going to change in the sense that we have one obligation, and right now, it's to entertain our fans."

The organization began posting skits and funny bits on their social media, which soon took off, said Cole. The Savannah Bananas have over 5.5 million TikTok followers to date. 

Their content during that time resonated with fans, with the team owner recalling one moment in particular. 

When the team came back to play later in 2020, Cole said a man came up to him, gave him a hug and said that knowing the Bananas would play again saved his life. He said he'd been in a dark place during the COVID lockdowns. 

"It's those moments and stories that we share that kind of keep us going," he said. 

The organization is always questioning how they can push the envelope and give the audience a memorable experience, night after night. 

"We want people to leave the ballpark saying, ‘You wouldn’t believe what I saw tonight at the Banana ball game,’" Cole said. 

The team is built on the idea of putting the fans first, working to create an experience unlike anything anyone has ever seen before, he continued.

"I’ve always wanted to bring more people together and feel love and be a part of something that’s special," he said. 

At the end of each game, the entire cast — players and interactive characters — thank fans as they leave the ballpark, while the Banana Band plays "Stand By Me," something that's special to Cole, he noted.

"I’m looking around [thinking] there’s nowhere else in the world this is happening right now … This is really special," he said.

People keep coming back because they feel like they are a part of something joyous, he added.

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