The foulball flew into the crowd, shining, with red stitching. But when it fell into someone’s hands, the surrounding Savannah Bananas fans started booing. They shouldn’t have caught What good
LoanMart field at Rancho Cucamonga was a full house on Saturday afternoon. Fans are also in yellow T-shirts. Angels And Dodgers gear, lined up hours before the 94-degree heat of the Inland Empire to see Savannah Bananas playing banana ball.
The three-day bonanza was the first time a Georgia team played in California. Tickets for the Bananas world tour sold out in minutes and more than 100,000 people are still on the waiting list as the team travels to San Jose and Sacramento this week.
Derrick Espinoza, a high school teacher from Gardena, received tickets as part of a fundraiser for the ball traveling team. He was about to go to Georgia to see them when he heard the Bananas were coming to town and thought, “We’ve got to go! Whatever the cost, we must.”
“It’s worth it,” the 42-year-old Giants fan said Sunday. “Every step, something happens.”
so what is banana ball? It takes the key features of baseball – the familiar bat-click, a field with four (bright yellow) bases, positions, hits and outs – and adds nine rules to keep fans entertained and engaged.
The game is dynamic. The two-hour time limit begins when fans yell “Start the clock!” No smut, no way out of the dough box. If you catch an unfair ball, it’s out. The kids sat in the stands with their mittens on, eager to do their part and catch the opposing team’s fouls.
There is also an energetic, radiant man in a yellow suit and top hat. this is the owner Jessie Cole. He’s the show ringmaster which accumulated 7.2 million TikTok Followers. Their world tour, which hit seven cities last year, spans 32 cities outside of Savannah, Georgia, and takes them to the West Coast for the first time.
“The sport was more than we could have imagined,” Cole said. “The support was really special.”
The circus-style baseball game began two hours before the first pitch was thrown, with the team welcoming fans onto the field for a meet and greet. Some of the players’ yellow and blue jerseys were covered in faded fan signatures as they left their own autographs on gloves, cards and flyers. Vincent Chapman, the dancing referee, gave advice to a Little Leaguer wearing an Angels Denzer Guzman sweater.
As soon as the main gates opened and a crowd gathered in the hall, a real theatrical performance began. Banana player Alex Ziegler balanced nose bats and chin ladders, the team found Banana Baby to dress up in a banana suit and climb like Simba in The Lion King, and the Papa Nana cheerleaders roamed the aisles dressed in yellow kilts.
Players mingled with the crowd, high fives and chatted with fans, signing merchandise throughout the game. Cole insisted he wasn’t too hot in a head-to-toe yellow suit.
“I have been wearing this for many years. It’s part of it,” he said. “Whether it’s rain, heat, hail, thunderstorm, whatever, we’re ready to put on a show and that’s what we do.”
Shortly before the start of the game, the team moved on to the AC/DC song “Thunderstruck”, including pitcher Dakota Albritton on stilts. “Siiiiiiiii!” one young boy in the crowd of fans had called him earlier. “Are you performing today?” He hit the ball for a change, which led to a spectacle when he jumped about 15 feet into the air towards second base.
“Everything we do, everything we think about, is about the fans first. And while they are here, they do not worry about any of their problems.
– Vincent Chapman, Savannah Bananas Dancing Judge.
Part of the fun is that fans never know what’s going to happen next. The team adds 15 new songs that have never been performed in front of a live audience every night. Cole acts as ringmaster and runs shenanigans, from kid races to fan kissing contests, between innings.
“It’s this obsession with being creative and unique and new that keeps fans coming back,” Cole said.
The Bananas practically did not separate from the crowd, completely immersed in what was happening. Chapman even accepted nachos from a fan midway through the game.
The team put on dances during performances and played “Baby Shark” whenever someone stole the base, creating entertainment for all age groups.
“You forget how hot it is because you’re having so much fun,” said Kristin Hill, a 52-year-old Dodgers fan from Chino Hills who won tickets to Sunday’s game in the second round of the lottery.
“It’s pure fun,” said Andrew Dunn, another San Diego lottery ticket holder, when asked about the difference between the Banana Ball game and the Padres games he attends.
Some have traveled internationally to play the game: retired Japanese professional baseball players Kento Sugiyama and Kenshi Sugiya. Josh Reddick, who won the 2017 World Series with the Astros, also showed up dressed as Spider-Man.
The Savannah Bananas, a minor league baseball team, embarked on their first “world tour” this year, bringing their unique brand of baseball to various American cities.
A purplish California sunset set off in pink against the backdrop of mountains may have briefly captured the attention of the Saturday night crowd. But then Banana hit the base, and Maceo Harrison, the dancing first base coach, did a back flip in the coaches’ box. They cheered, captivated once again.
In one full inning, LoanMart Field turned into a concert arena. Coldplay’s “Yellow” blasted out of the speakers, and the players on the field and the fans raised their phone flashlights, swaying.
Like any big stage performance, Bananas ended the evening with a curtain.
An upbeat remix of “Time of My Life” blared from the stadium speakers. as the crowd continued to disperse and the Bananas took to the square to continue what they had been doing all along – mingling with the fans.
At 21:30 the fans were still lingering at the stadium. A crowd of people gathered outside along with the cheerleaders and players who patiently signed autographs for another hour, even if that meant constantly bending over on stilts.
After entertaining fans for three days, the Savannah Bananas headed to the beach hoping to catch a wave after Sunday’s game.