Coastal Plain League

Getting To Know 'Banana Ball,' The Game Invented By The Savannah Bananas

Getting To Know 'Banana Ball,' The Game Invented By The Savannah Bananas

Banana Ball isn't your ordinary brand of baseball. Just ask Jesse Cole, owner of the Savannah Bananas.

May 26, 2021 by Michael McCleary
Getting To Know 'Banana Ball,' The Game Invented By The Savannah Bananas

Jesse Cole knows a good bit about baseball. 

Cole is the owner of the Savannah Bananas, a team in the Coastal Plain League. Just about five years old, the Bananas have already become one of the most popular teams in the Coastal Plain League. A day out of the start of the 2021 CPL season, the team has already sold out 20 of its 28 contests.

Partly because of some success (the team won the CPL championship in its inaugural season) and some unconventional methods (they play their games in kilts). A part of this embrace of the unconventional led Cole to invent Banana Ball, which is like baseball. Sort of. 

Here’s a rundown of the game.

How do you play?

Banana Ball is played almost entirely like baseball, except for two main areas: scoring and time. According to a video released by the Bananas in 2020 about Banana Ball, Banana Ball is still a race to score more runs than the other team, but rather than compiling runs at the end of every game, runs are scored to determine who won an inning and scored the point.

In Banana Ball, runs don’t determine the winner. Points do. If the away team scores more runs than the home team, the away team gets a point. First team to five points wins. 

But there’s also a two-hour time limit. If the game doesn’t reach five points within two hours, whoever has the most points at that point wins. If there’s a tie, the Bananas video explains that a tie-breaker is a sudden death scenario. One-on-one, pitcher vs. hitter. Wherever the hitter hits a ball, the pitcher is the only player on the field who can retrieve it as the hitter runs around the bases looking to score.

Why was it created?

The whole origin of Banana Ball is based on baseball being “a little bit too long, a little bit too slow and a little bit too boring for many fans. So we had to change it,” Cole explained in the Banana Ball video. The rules of Banana Ball are designed to speed up the game and make every inning count, no matter how many runs each team scores. 

Though Cole admitted to Baseball America that Banana Ball is not the game for baseball traditionalists, the MLB has instituted several measures in recent years in an effort to speed up the game. Most recently, the league kept a COVID-19 pandemic season-era rule that put a runner on second base for each team at the start of every extra inning in an effort to avoid repeated stalemates that prolong a game past the traditional nine innings.

Additionally, the point system allows for what Cole described in the video as a “walk-off moment” every inning as the home team has the opportunity to score a point-sealing run in every bottom of the inning.

Will the Bananas play Banana Ball in the CPL?

No. The Bananas are a traditional wood bat college team during the Coastal Plain League. According to Baseball America, the Bananas had only played four Banana Ball games prior to mid-March 2021. But the popularity of Banana Ball (which Baseball America noted has sold out every available seat) is another example of how the Savannah Bananas have cultivated their CPL popularity in just five short years.

Michael McCleary is a contributor for FloSports whose work has appeared in IndyStar, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Daily Orange and more. Follow him on Twitter @mikejmccleary.