The Savannah Bananas, mic'd up

You've seen them, now you can hear them

September 28th, 2022

There's a shirtless guy in a cowboy hat shagging fly balls.

Another, in a beer-dispensing helmet, takes BP -- rocketing balls into the left-center field gap.

"It's the time of my life," Savannah Bananas first baseman Dan Oberst said. "Hands down."

A long-haired pitcher on stilts warms up on the side. A hitter practices riding up to the plate on a magic carpet. A group of players with Santa hats dance to Jingle Bell Rock.

Off to the right, an older man stretches out in foul territory.

Wait, is that Bill Lee? The former Major Leaguer-turned-Savanah-Bananer who collapsed in the bullpen just three weeks before? How -- why was he back so soon?

"The ball," the 75-year-old Spaceman told me, with his characteristic wit. "You know, [Jim] Bouton said, 'The whole time I thought I was grabbing the ball, but the ball was grabbing me.'"

A couple hours later, after parading through the crowd to a brass band, the players from both sides get ready to play a game. There is one more recognizable person in the Bananas dugout: Former All-Star closer Jonathan Papelbon, a man who played in thousands of baseball games, eagerly peeks out at the field as if it's his very first.

"What do you think?" Bananas owner Jesse Cole, wearing a yellow tuxedo, asks me, before rushing over to direct whichever act is up next. "Yeah, we have a lot going on always."

This is Bananaland.

Although the Savannah Bananas have been part of a legit collegiate wood bat league with legit college players since 2016, they've become famous for playing "Banana Ball" a few times per month.'s Michael Clair did a deep dive into the brand of ball back in June (he even dressed up in a banana suit for it), but it's basically real baseball in under two hours with no bunting, fan catches for an out and other fun, eclectic ways of presenting the 150-year-old game. Here's a breakdown of some of the main rules below:

And dancing of course. Lots of dancing.

"We wanna put on a good show of baseball," pitcher Kyle Luigs, pictured in the above video told me. "But we also want to entertain, and if we have terrible dance moves, that's not entertaining."

So, of course, the Bananas -- specifically Oberst and Luigs -- were prime for a Play Loud mic'd up segment. You can kind of get a look at what goes on behind the madness: Oberst loses his glove about five times before the game starts, Luigs practices his dance moves during his stretch routines and the two show off some expert teamwork at first.

There's also their awed reactions to Papelbon coming in to close out their game.

As Cole said: The action, the entertainment is nonstop during Banana games. From dancing umpires to in-game pizza deliveries to anything weird and wild in between.

And that's the point. The team wants to constantly have the crowd's attention. The teams and players have gotten such a tremendous reaction from their sold-out crowds and viral videos, that they've just announced that they'll be playing strictly Banana Ball full-time starting next season -- hosting games at Grayson Stadium but also taking their show on the road.

"Like we talked about, we're not trying to change the game," Luigs told me. "We're trying to change the game for the audience that's watching it now. They want something fast, something big. Banana ball is good for that. Not necessarily changing the game but adapting the game to who's watching it."

"I'm playing with my grandsons, I'm being managed by my children, and I don't have to listen to my children," Lee said, laughing. "It's a perfect existence for me."

After a raucous back-and-forth affair with their usual Banana ball opponent -- the Party Animals -- the two hours are almost up. It's just beginning to get dark at the ballpark where Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron once took at-bats.

Fans are finishing up the last of their banana cream sodas, they've just participated in the nightly rendition of Coldplay's "Yellow," and there's one more half-inning left for the Bananas to break a tie and deliver a walk-off win. Time for one last, magical act.

Oberst, mic'd up, is at the plate with a man on. He, of course, hits a game-winning double into the gap.

The crowd can't believe it. Cole, the players, who scripted many things that night, couldn't have scripted it.

Fans march out to the back of the stadium and get a chance to chat with Savannah's biggest stars -- asking for autographs, selfies and celebrating with one final, goodbye dance all together.

"It's cliché, but fun wins," Oberst said. "That's what we all say. It's cliché, but when you're having fun, you win."