Savannah Bananas Commit to Full-Time Banana Ball in 2023
After winning the Coastal Plain League in back-to-back years and for the third time in seven years, the Savannah Bananas are hanging up their cleats as a traditional baseball team.
Banana Ball beckons.
The Bananas announced that the just completed 2022 season was the team’s final season in the summer wood bat Coastal Plain League. Beginning next year, the Bananas will focus entirely on Banana Ball, the baseball-adjacent game that the Bananas first trialed in 2018, then first played in front of fans in 2020 and first played at home and on the road in 2021.
This was likely an inevitability from this spring, when the Bananas drew massive crowds for Banana Ball games at home and on the road in March and April. The team’s website explained how its summer Coastal Plain League games would be played by regular baseball rules. But with lengthy waiting lists to get tickets to Banana Ball games in Savannah, fans would try to catch the CPL Bananas on the road.
And when they did, Bananas owner Jesse Cole said they would often complain when they learned they had bought a ticket to a normal baseball game.
“We had to have a lot of conversations. One fan called us a scam artist (once they saw it was a regular baseball game) . . . If you confuse you lose,” Cole said. “This gives us the chance to play more games for more fans.
In 2023 the Bananas will play Banana Ball from February to September. Cole said that he expects the team to play in 25 different cities next year in addition to more dates in Savannah. Cole said that the team has a waiting list of more than 80,000 fans who have requested tickets. Every Banana Ball game in Savannah (and almost every game on the road) has been a sellout.
The new longer season will also allow the team’s players to play a full-time schedule rather than the short spring and late-summer seasons the Bananas and Party Animals played this year.
Banana Ball plays on a baseball diamond with nine fielders and a nine-person lineup, just like baseball. But the rules are significantly tweaked. Teams are trying to win each inning. The first team to five points (five inning wins) wins the game. If the team in the bottom of the inning scores enough runs to win that inning, that inning immediately ends.
Foul balls caught by fans are outs. If a batter reaches four balls, he gets to sprint around the bases and the team on defense has to have everyone on the field touch the ball before they can try to retire the batter (it usually means the batter reaches second base, but if there is a throwing error, the batter may get to third or further).
Everything is focused on being faster paced. Batters can not step out. There are no mound visits (other than pitching changes). And the game has a two-hour time limit. If neither team has reached five points by the two-hour time limit (no new inning starts after 1:50), then there is a showdown. In the showdown, each team picks a pitcher and a batter. There is only one fielder (other than the catcher and pitcher). If the batter puts the ball in play, they must run all the way around the bases before the fielder, pitcher and catcher can get them out. Each run counts as a point.