The Savannah Bananas are taking the sports world by storm. The Savannah Bananas, an entertaining baseball team, recently took on some retired Major League Baseball players in a game that proved just how much fun this version of baseball can be.

MLB's Opening Day is almost here, but Banana Ball is happening now!

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Opening day for Major League Baseball is later this month, but Banana Ball is already in full swing. It's a kind of bizarre version of the game played by the Savannah Bananas. The team has taken the sports world by storm with a ticket waitlist of half a million people for their cross-country tour and more followers on TikTok than any MLB team. Recently, the Bananas played a team of retired MLB players under the rules of Banana Ball. Benjamin Payne of Georgia Public Broadcasting was at that game. Here's the story.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: When I say Savannah, you say banana. Savannah.








BENJAMIN PAYNE, BYLINE: Some 4,000 people packed into Grayson Stadium in Savannah, Ga., for what the Bananas call the greatest show in sports.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: This is not your granddad's pastime.

PAYNE: It certainly is not. Bananas play by their own set of highly unorthodox rules. For one, there is a two-hour time limit, and batters get a strike if they step out of the batter's box. Then there's perhaps the most popular rule in Banana Ball. If a fan catches a foul ball, the batter is out.

UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST: (Singing) We will, we will peel you.

PAYNE: The banana puns are always a fan favorite. The team used to be a regular minor league squad with occasional Banana Ball games, but those became so popular that the team left their league to play nothing but Banana Ball this year.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Now batting - Johnny Damon.

PAYNE: That's 18-year MLB veteran Johnny Damon, perhaps best-known for helping the Boston Red Sox end their 86-year-long World Series drought in 2004. Here's Bananas broadcaster Biko Skalla with the call for Damon's first at-bat.

BIKO SKALLA: That ball is bombed but fouled down the right-field line. If it was fair, it was a homer.

PAYNE: Damon would go hitless in his three at-bats. The rest of the retired major leaguers didn't fare much better. But the Bananas, mostly a team of 20-somethings, had a field day, winning 5-1. Late in the game, the tallest player in all of baseball hobbled slowly toward the batter's box.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Please welcome Dakota "Stilts" Albritton.

PAYNE: True to his name, Dakota Albritton is on stilts. Standing 10 feet nine inches tall, he rose to the occasion with a runner in scoring position.

SKALLA: O for two this year, one for six in his career as that one's cranked down the third-base line - fair. And the Bananas are going to walk the inning off.

PAYNE: The antics go beyond the baseball diamond. There's a pet band...


PAYNE: ...And a cheerleading squad of grandmas called the Banana Nanas. So Johnny Damon was in good spirits after the game even though Team Major League lost.

JOHNNY DAMON: Obviously, we want to win every time we get out there, but it was fantastic. Everybody's leaving here happy.

PAYNE: Former Oakland A Billy Burns assessed his team's performance.

BILLY BURNS: Horrible. You could tell all of us hadn't played in years. But it was a really cool experience, and I've never played anything like that. And it was way faster-paced than I thought, so I was exhausted after, like, the second inning.

PAYNE: Damon says the MLB can learn from how the Bananas appeal to a bunch of different groups.

DAMON: They're bringing everything for the fans, for the grandmas, for the babies, for the kids.

PAYNE: The Bananas will play two more games against retired major leaguers this year as part of their 33-city exhibition tour across the U.S. For NPR News, I'm Benjamin Payne in Savannah, Ga.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Bananas, Bananas.


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