When the Sand Gnats split, the Savannah Banana's stepped up to the plate. Next Thursday, the new team for the Coastal Plain collegiate summer baseball league will take the field at Grayson Stadium for the first time.
The players are not professional players, meaning they are not getting paid. But those invited to play are some of the very best college players in the country.
The Savannah Bananas’ name has split a lot of fans. Whether you like it or not, from a marketing standpoint, the team has plenty of appeal.
“People said, ‘I can’t believe you came up with that name.’ But overall, after a week or two, it just became so positive,” said Jesse Cole, the Savannah Bananas’ team owner.
When the team name was announced, so many people had an opinion that “Savannah Bananas” was trending on Facebook and Twitter.
And an even bigger hit around the country has been the Savannah Bananas’ puppy, Daisy. She was left abandoned at Grayson Stadium and then adopted by the team. Now, she is the Savannah Bananas Bat Girl.
“I know BuzzFeed picked it up, and Animal Planet. I think I did an interview with the Japan Broadcasting Network at one point. I mean, America truly loves this dog. Savannah's going to love this dog,” said Jared Orton, Savannah Bananas team president.
Savannah area fans have already started to love their summer bat girl.
“Fans actually call and say ‘I want to come and get my tickets, but is Daisy here?’ They only come and see if Daisy is there,” Cole said.
And fans have the chance to see her every game night and in the office.
“She greets all of our fans, as they come in the gate every night. Here at the office, she’s greeting them, running up to them, saying hello. They love her. We love her. I think it's a great fit,” Orton said.
She’s a great fit for a team that hasn't even thrown a first pitch.
“Obviously, it’s a lot of luck. You know, we feel a big obligation and responsibility to deliver,” Cole said.
The positive publicity that any major league team would beg for has allowed the team to double their full-time staff and put money into the Banana Stand with strong merchandise and ticket sales through unique pricing.
“A lot of ballparks now, you look at any arena, they are paying so much money for the ticket that then they pay for the food. That's why we introduced our all-inclusive tickets. So, any season ticket, five game or group, they get all the hot dogs, burgers, chicken sandwiches, soda, water, everything for $15 and that includes the ticket,” Cole said. “Now the key is they can’t come to the game and buy it. They has to be bought in advance.”
The whole idea is to give fans the most bang for their buck.
“We are bringing baseball back, but we knew people might be skeptical. It's a different level of baseball,” Cole said. “Our goal was to say, ‘You know what, we are going to be different, and we're proud of it.’”
The focus of the crowd’s entertainment is not about what’s happening on the field. It's about the experience.
“That's what our goal is, for fans to come to game and leave and say, ‘Honey, you won't believe what I saw at the game tonight,’” Cole said. “If the team loses 12-0, if you ask someone did they enjoy the game, [the answer is] probably no. But if you ask them did they enjoy the show, it's yes. Everything we do is going to be focused on the show.”
The team only plays a 24-game home schedule, and two of those games are already sold out in Savannah.
“People are going to remember their nights here at the stadium. That’s what’s most important,” Savannah Banana announcer, “Shark,” said. “They are not going to go home and say, ‘Eh, it was alright.’ They are going to remember every single thing that happened that night,”
The team even has a director of entertainment, as if Savannah Bananas baseball were in a theater. The director, Will Swisher, said there will be inflatables, a bounce house and a dunk booth to entertain fans at every home game down the third base line.
Every half inning, there will be something different to add to the entertainment.
“If they are not playing baseball on the field, we are playing a game,” Swisher said.
But just because the focus is on the fans’ entertainment doesn’t mean the baseball will suffer.
“The baseball’s going to be good,” “Shark” said. “These players are going to be solid players. They’re college level players, and they’re trying to get drafted. It’s a good product.”
The Savannah Bananas staff wants the new endeavor to be about the city and the people of Savannah.
“I think we are going to be very good on the field, but the reality is, we can't control how the team does on the field. What we can control is the show we put on every night. So when we welcome people to the ball park, welcome to the show, we hope you enjoy the show. It's a show tonight. Everything's about the show.”
Click here for more information about the team’s schedule of events and ticket prices.
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