Bananaland on ESPN+, a Joyous Ride-Along With the Most Entertaining Team in Baseball

Bananaland on ESPN+, a Joyous Ride-Along With the Most Entertaining Team in Baseball ...

Baseball can be frustrating, but BananaBall never gets boring. From on-field dancing to acrobatic pitching to completely revamping the rule book, the Bananas will do anything to try and instill the gospel of baseball to new generations.


Opening Shot: A guy dressed head-to-toe in a yellowyellow shirt and a yellow bowler hat opens the game to a minor-league ballpark and walks onto the field with a dreamy look on his face. It's Jesse Cole, the co-owner and mastermind behind the Savannah Bananas, who plays high-fiving fans and loving the game.

The Gist: In 2015, the single-A Savannah Sand Gnats left the town, moving to Columbia, South Carolina, and leaving Savannahs Grayson Stadium empty handed. Jesse and Emily Cole had an idea to fill it. The Savannah Bananas, a collegiate summer league team, have sold out every single game theyve played in Savannahand Bananaland.

What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Despite this being a documentary, it has the feel of some of the greatest baseball movies out there. Scenes of a ragtag bunch of lovely weirdos coming together remind me of Major League and Bull Durham, or perhaps non-baseball comedy like Old School.

Jesse Cole has a vision, and if you spend any time listening to him talk about it, you'll likely agree to go to the big leagues. At the age of 23, he became the general manager of the Gastonia Grizzlies, a collegiate summer baseball team that he described as the worst in professional baseball.

Jesse and Emily Cole saw an opportunity to expand their vision of a new baseball club in Savannah in 2016. They set up a new club, the Savannah Bananas, which they will soon be dubbed, and almost went broke, sabotaging more than a million dollars in debt and overdrawing their bank accounts before selling their house to finance the dream of a fun baseball team.

Their intention sprang to fruition.

The Savannah Bananas have sold out every home game they have ever played, and have a waiting list of tens of thousands of people waiting to enter. Continuous choreographed entertainment, dancing players, and endless promotions are all designed to make the fan experience unforgettable.

However, that wasnt all the way to the end.

The Coles decided to take the Bananas festival on the road, assembling two professional touring teamsthe Bananas and their opponents, the Party Animals, to face off against a barnstorming season that resembled the Harlem Globetrotters and Washington Generals. These games would be played under a new set of rules, known as BananaBall, which includes rules aimed at speeding up the games further and bringing the excitement to the forefront.

The backstory of these touring teams is taken up by the second half of the first episode, and it's a team-drafting montage worthy of a Major League match. Players old and youngsome wanting one last opportunity to enjoy the game they loveare brought together to show off their talents as ballplayers and entertainers, and the Bananas' try-anything attitude is evident when they invite 75-year-old former Red Sox pitcher Bill Spaceman Lee for a tryout.

Bananaland is by far the most enjoyable experience I've had watching anything sports related in recent memory; the characters are funny, the mission is infectious, and the entire endeavor is an absolute delight. Jesse Cole discusses the possibility of developing a BananaBall that would sell out major league ballparks; however, it's hard not to believe he can.

Several shirtless ballplayers and one player who pitches in his underwear, but nothing that isn't PG. This is family entertainment!

The Bananas have held their roadshow tryouts and have selected 40 players to fill the rosters of the Bananas and their opposition, the Party Animals. Manager Eric Byrnes gives a motivational speech to the playerstheyve been hired to be fun and entertain, but they have a job to do.

Sleeper Star: In the first episode, virtually everyone who appears on screen is a first-rate, capital-C Character, but perhaps none more so than the visiting Bananas manager, ten-year MLB veteran Eric Byrnes, who carries himself with a manic guru dirtbag preacher-slash-carnival barker energy. His star power is matched by new pitcher Mat Wolf, a 34-year old firefighter and fifth-generation rodeo clown who dazzles with

Most Pilot-y Line: During try-outs, one front-office employee explains that we want the most talented players, but also the most funny players. If we have a really good player, but they aren't interested in going in for a bit or salsa dancing up to the batters box, we're not interested in doing so.

STREAM IT. The first episode alone had me thinking about going to Savannah next summer. BananaBall is an absolute delight to see. BananaBall is pure joy in person.

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