The Savannah Bananas, an outfit that is so much more than just a North American baseball team, is set to tour the US with its own brand of sport and entertainment later this year.
The team recently added 11 challenger games to its 2023 Banana Ball World Tour, three of which will be against the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association. The 2023 Banana Ball World Tour is also set to feature the Aussie Drop Bears, who will be making the journey from Australia to face the Bananas in June.
However, the baseball action will be just a part of the attraction. This is a team that prioritises the fan experience, from the players performing wacky dances for the crowd, to stilt-walkers, to cheerleading grannies, and more.
“Every single Bananas game always has a handful of things that have never been done on a baseball field before,” Savannah Bananas broadcast entertainer Biko Skalla tells Fan XP.
“On the 2023 Banana Ball World Tour we’ll be taking this to the next level and folks will be blown away by what they see. We’ll also have new characters and players, more former MLB players suiting up for us, we’re taking on far more challengers than ever before and we’ve got loads more tricks up our sleeves that of course I cannot reveal today!”
Making the split
The Savannah Bananas played traditional baseball – with the added quirkiness of parties, picture opportunities with players and many other antics – in the Coastal Plain League up until last year. However, the exhibition baseball team decided that it would focus solely on its own version of America’s Game – ‘Banana Ball’ – going forward.
Based in Savannah, Georgia, the team has become so popular that it has sold out every game since its inaugural season in 2016, as well as every city on the Banana Ball World Tour. There is even a waiting list for tickets.
“Bananas games are such a hot commodity because fans know they will be entertained and will leave with lifelong memories,” continues Skalla.
“That is what this whole thing is about. Breaking the barriers between fans and players. Every fan can talk with players, get autographs, pictures, and if a foul ball comes their direction and they catch it on the fly they literally can record an out in the game and therefore become a player themselves.”
Skalla adds: “The icing on top is the game has a two-hour time limit, so folks won’t have to wait an unknowable amount of time to see the climax of the game. And the cherry on top of the icing is the party outside the gate after the game where all the characters and players dance and celebrate with the fans.”
Fan experience at the forefront
What is happening off the baseball field is just as important to the Savannah Bananas as what is happening on the it.
“It might sound redundant, but the fan experience is so important to us because it literally means everything to us,” explains Skalla. “We are Fan’s First Entertainment for a reason. Every decision we make has to be what is best for the fans.”
For instance, all hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, popcorn, cookies, chips, and drinks without alcohol are free at the team’s home games in Savannah – a bold move in an industry that typically relies upon such marked-up items for vital income.
“Fans don’t want to come to the ballpark and spend an insane amount of money on food and drinks,” Skalla adds. “So, what would be the best thing for the fan? If they came to the ballpark and spent literally no money on food and drinks but still got to eat and drink to their heart’s content.”
There has even been consideration for fans in devising the queuing and ticketing systems, optimizing the experience even further.
“We spend countless hours trying to make our concession stand lines as quick as possible because fans don’t want to stand in line, especially at a Bananas game when they’re being entertained constantly, not just when a ball is in play,” Skalla says.
“We cover all taxes and fees on our tickets and merchandise (plus have free shipping in the US) because when fans see a price for something we want that to be the price, not a cent more. You get the gist of it. We only exist to give fans the greatest experience possible. Without our fans we are nothing.”
Image credit: Savannah Bananas
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