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Lights! Cameras! Bananas!
National media spotlights are lighting up for the Savannah Bananas with announcements that the baseball team will be featured on television and on subscription streaming services.
ESPN has teased on social media platforms Twitter and Facebook that “Bananaland” will be coming to ESPN+ this summer. While details are scarce, the documentary-style series is set to feature six 30-minute episodes chronicling “Banana Ball,” an unorthodox brand of sport played this spring in Savannah and while touring six other Southeast cities. sold out.
Starting this week, HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” features “Banana Ball” as a segment of its new episode debuting Tuesday at 10 p.m. on the premium cable network and airing on HBO Max.
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“It’s a fun story. It’s a fun story to tell,” correspondent Mary Carillo said Monday morning from Paris, where she is covering the French Open tennis tournament.
“I don’t think Parisians have really heard of the Savannah Bananas, but I intend to tell them everything,” she joked.
More and more people are hearing about Banana Ball, a spin-off of the more traditional team of ball club college players in the Coastal Plain League, a strictly summer league that begins at the end of the month at Grayson Stadium.
In both cases, the circus atmosphere of the music, dance and comedy pieces does not stop before, during and even after the matches. The Savannah Bananas Premier Team is a professional travel team that plays the Party Animals in a version of baseball with vastly different rules to speed up play and generate more action and dramatic situations.
Bananas — featured nationally in print, TV and online media — has 2.5 million followers on TikTok, which caught Carillo’s attention.
Carillo was also impressed with the multiple generations of fans enjoying the game and the show each night when she and the HBO film crew visited Grayson Stadium.
“It’s not your grandfather’s baseball. It’s not your father’s baseball,” Carillo said. “These days, I don’t think there’s a lot of things that grandkids and grandparents can go to, that’s just open to everyone, that there’s something for everyone.
“Baseball is actually pretty good. We saw a few games. There were good pitches and good hits. Baseball is played.”
David Beilinson is the producer and director of “Bananaland”. He makes films with his partners Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley at RUMUR Inc., an independent production studio.
He was assigned last July to attend “crazy baseball games” in Savannah when the Bananas were on the verge of winning the 2021 Coastal Plain League title, but it was no ordinary achievement.
“No idea what the team was,” Beilinson said in a recent interview with Savannah. “I just saw pictures of this guy wearing a yellow suit and a bunch of players dancing and he was like, ‘OK, that’s interesting.’ And I got to Grayson Stadium and saw what happened. I was blown away.”
Beilinson created a 7-minute documentary film about bananas that aired on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.” The guy in the yellow suit was team co-owner Jesse Cole, who started the Bananas with his wife Emily in Savannah in 2016.
“It got a lot of attention online,” Beilinson said. “I think it helped the Bananas a lot to expose them to a wider audience. And I loved working with Jesse (Cole). I said to him, you know there’s something bigger here and it’s how you run your operation, the process by which you go through and edit these shows. I felt there was a bigger story than a five-minute piece for television. And so we have put this pitch together to make a longer series.
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Beilinson and his crew of 15-17 followed the team almost daily from tryouts in late February until the tour’s final stop in Kansas City in early May. They captured the action in front of the crowd and behind the scenes and conducted interviews for over 100 hours of footage.
“I think it’s very rare these days with social media and the proliferation of content and the ability to see everything, that you can still discover something completely unique in the United States that others don’t. hadn’t seen,” Beilinson said. “And I think that’s what they have here.”
Nathan Dominitz is the sports content editor for Savannah Morning News and savannahnow.com. Email him at [email protected] Twitter: @NathanDominitz