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Savannah Bananas

Savannah Bananas Make The Show

On Saturday night, March 9th, the Savannah Bananas did something they had yet to do in their storied existence, they played Banana Ball on a Major League baseball field with thousands of fans in attendance, to be exact, there were approximately 42,000 Banana fanatics at the ballpark.

This won’t be the last time they play on a big league field, as they are scheduled to play this season at the homes of the Boston Red Sox, Washington Nationals, Cleveland Guardians, Philadelphia Phillies, and Miami Marlins.

For the Savannah Bananas, the first time on a major league baseball field, had to be one for the ages.

The Bananas have come a long way and Dalton Cornett, who is on his third tour with Banana Ball and a member of the Party Animals, shared with me his amazement on the quick growth of the Bananas and the fan base, “To watch the organization grow has been crazy, because as you know it all started out as a Collegiate Summer League and then turned professional.” He continued, “We already had a small fan base, but as time went on it just continued to grow, but nothing has been compared to this season (2024). Day by day the fan base grows as I can see it in just our followers. I am just super blessed to be apart of this whole organization.”

Along with Dalton, I caught up with a few other members of the Savannah Bananas that we have also been blessed to call our friends here at Legends on Deck and they too gave me some great insights into what the whole experience was like at Minute Maid Park.

The Houston Experience

“I felt like a Major League Ball player for a day. It was like we all got called up to the big leagues, our entire roster, and their front staff made every one of us feel special like we were in the big leagues already. It was just a special day and a huge moment for our organization and a huge milestone for Banana Ball.” – Dalton Cornett.

Not only was it a special day for a ball player, but it was also a thrilling day for Mark Ediss, aka ‘The Shark’, the official DJ and PA announcer for the Savannah Bananas. “From the moment our bus pulled up to Minute Maid Park for Friday’s full day of rehearsals, my heart started pounding.  I got goosebumps thinking about the next day and how it was finally here.” He continued with his excitement, “Banana Ball in our first Big League Ballpark…In front of a Sold Out Crowd…42 Thousand People!!!”

The event doesn’t truly get started without Matt Graifer aka The Young Professor, the Master of Ceremonies, Cast Director and Chief Potassium Enthusiast, who has been the man who gets the party going with his awe inspiring, goosebump feeling, get the crowd pumped up and ready for what’s to come. There is no one better to lead the charge.

“Saturday night inside a sold out Minute Maid Park in Houston was a night I will never forget. When I walked inside the arena on Friday morning for the first time and saw that field, my heart leapt up in my chest and began to thump rapidly…all I could do was wonder how we were going to pull it off.” – Matt Graifer.

I can only understand part of the excitement these men felt as my vantage point is of a fan, as I too experienced my first Banana Ball game at the New York Yankees Spring home in Tampa last April, and that was the most exhilarating experience I ever had at a baseball field. Now add a Major League stadium, and I can only imagine the full excitement level.

The Set-Up

When my Podcast co-host Brian Koss and I ventured out to Banana Ball last April, we walked around the park looking at how everything was in line with how the Bananas provide the Fan First experience, and even though you could not see him, you knew that Mark “Shark” Ediss was in the booth playing the tunes and announcing the whole event. But this time around in Houston, he was given a special place to do his magic.

“Normally, I’m set up in the ballparks press box area…most of the time, somewhere either behind Homeplate or one of the baselines.  This time, our Director of Entertainment Zack Frongillo, placed me literally in the thick of it all…in left centerfield at the Phillips 66 Gas Pump.” The Shark continued, “I had full view of every seat in the Ballpark…which would be filled to the max.  To say I had the best seat in the house in Minute Maid Park was an understatement.” – Mark “Shark” Ediss.

The Main Event

The game is not just a game, but it’s a full all out experience of a lifetime. Its the main event of any sports show on the planet today. There is nothing else like it and if you are one of the lucky Banana fanatics that get to see a game live, it’s something that you and your family will talk about forever. But imagine being the ones putting on the show, as they get to experience it from a whole different perspective and still have the same thrills or more than they give the fans.

“It was time…for the Biggest opening Announcement of my life,”  ‘Houston, How’s Everybody Feeling Tonight???!!!’ The response from the crowd is always loud.  This was a whole new level of loud, the screams were Chill-Inducing. There were definitely tears of joy when I heard it.” – Mark “Shark” Ediss.

“Unforgettable memories, the crowd was electric from start to finish. I’ve never heard cheers that loud in person. I felt honored to be umpiring where the best of the best are. Obviously it was louder than anywhere else, but it showed us Banana Ball can be played at any stadium.” – Vincent Chapman – The Dancing Umpire.

“Our famous Crowd Sing-Off was obviously the loudest I’ve ever heard!”  “Another Bananas staple ‘Hey Baby’ was Incredible.  Then there was Yellow.  42,000 fans with their flashlights in hand filling the ballpark with their lights and singing in unison to Yellow.  It was for sure another goosebump inducing moment and a time for me to take it all in and think how far we’ve come from year 1 as The Savannah Bananas to selling out our first MLB stadium.  Proud doesn’t begin to explain it.” – Mark “Shark” Ediss.

“We all headed to Houston, Texas last weekend not to put on just another show. We went out to change the landscape of sports and entertainment. We went out to challenge the norms of how events are run and what they look like on a large scale. We showed the world what entertainment Could Be. We showed them what it Should Be. Mostly, we showed them what We Are, and that is one thing and one thing only: we are Fans First.” – Matt Graifer – The Young Professor.

“The Experience in Houston was unbelievable, the crowd, the atmosphere, the excitement, everything there was just crazy.” – Dalton Cornett.

The MLB Ball Players

You can’t have a baseball game of any kind on a MLB field without having a local hero or two show up, and that is what Savannah Bananas owner Jesse Cole provided, as he brought out some of the big names that once donned Astros’ orange.

“Special appearances were part of this amazing night as well. Former Astros World Series winner Josh Reddick came to bat in the bottom of the 1st inning with his Ric Flair entrance. Later, Astros legends “Rocket” Roger Clemens and Roy Oswalt took the mound, entering to thunderous applause and euphoria.” – Mark “Shark” Ediss.

The After Party

After a Banana Ball game, starts the real party, as everyone that is part of the Savannah Bananas on field show, comes out to greet the fans and spends time with them, showing the true fan first experience. Its one experience no one wants to miss.

“We had our after party, and we signed autographs and met with people and they stayed almost an hour and half after the game.” – Dalton Cornett.

Full Fan Experience

The full fan experience is something you have to witness in person, because watching on Youtube does not do the trick. I will say it day in and day out, that there is nothing like being a part of a Banana Ball game and after you go to one, your hooked for life.

“Our goal was to give the fans further away from the plate, the same experience as the fans closer to the plate, so we all spread out and tried to make it as equal to everyone as we could.” – Dalton Cornett.

“All 41,000+ people there that night [at Minute Maid Park] got an experience that they will never forget. And for the 200 or so of us that got a chance to step out under the brightest lights we’ve ever stood beneath: we shined brighter than ever.” – Matt Graifer – The Young Professor.

 

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Photos Courtesy of Mark “Shark” Ediss, the Savannah Banana’s Facebook Page and Janna Ellis Pokluda

 

David is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of Legends On Deck®, as well as a Co-Host on Legends On Deck Podcast. David was a Senior Editor for MetsMerizedOnline.com, MetsMinors.net and Contributor for Hardballchat.com that spanned from 2010 to 2014. David made his MLB Debut as a writer in June 2014, while covering the NY Mets at Citi Field, for MetsmerizedOnline.com. David also coaches baseball for ages 13-15, a Babe Ruth League team in his local community. David's passion is coaching the game he loves to the future Legends of Tomorrow as well as making available a website that people can have fun sharing and reading. David is also passionate about his career as a Mortgage Loan Officer which allows him to help many families reach their dreams of owning a home. Connect with David via his Social Media pages as he loves to chat all about baseball.

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