Alex Degen – A Farewell to One of the Bananas’ Greats

Alex Degen is known around Grayson Stadium for his dolphin dives, crazy dances, and dominant pitching performances, but many don’t know that he was self-described as shy and unsure of himself upon his arrival to Savannah back in 2019. 

Degen had just finished his freshman year of college at the University of Kentucky when he learned that he would be playing for the Savannah Bananas during the summer. 

Upon his arrival, he was timid and quiet and the only thing on his mind was baseball. Before his fifth game of the season, he was told that he was going to be in the player dance for the game. 

Immediate dread ran throughout his body. But, if you know Degen, you know that he doesn’t do anything half-heartedly. 

Degen went full out that night, showing the crowd of 4,000 fans what had been inside of him all along. “I went out there and just put all of my energy into that one dance,” Degen recounts.

He instantly became a fan favorite and his title was forever changed to “The Dancing Degen”. He appeared in every player dance after that and his dance moves got better and better every game. 

When he returned to UK after the 2019 season, his fellow players weren’t sure what to make of him. He left as this shy and quiet boy and returned as this loud and confident player who was ready to break out into dance and bring energy everyday. 

He didn’t just bring back his dance moves though, he also brought back his incredible talent. In the shortened 2020 season, Degen established himself as a mainstay in the Wildcat bullpen, boasting an ERA of 2.51, with 14.1 IP, 10 hits, and only 5 runs allowed. 

Degen had big plans for 2020. He had learned early on in the 2019 fall semester that he would be playing for the Cape Cod League and thought that his time as a Banana was over. He was sad, but also excited for the new opportunity. 

However, as most sport organizations and leagues did, the Cape Cod League canceled their 2020 summer season. Degen was disappointed, but his immediate thought was, “If any team is going to have a season, it’s going to be the Savannah Bananas.”

Sure enough, Degen got a call from Tyler Gillum, head coach of the Bananas, asking him to come play in Savannah for the season.

Degen felt as if he was given a second chance. He said, “Looking back at last summer, I felt like I could have given more effort to make a fan’s experience better. I never wanted that to happen again. So, looking at this summer, I can say that I gave 100% all the time for the fans, team, and coaches.” 

We couldn’t agree more, Alex. From participating in the player dances, choreographing his own dances, and even personally going to sit and talk with fans during games, Degan has proven that he not only cares about baseball, but also the fans here in Savannah. 

“He’s the best guy we have for entertainment. He’s going to do anything and everything we ask,” Coach Gillum says. 

He admits that the Bananas coaches have helped immensely with his skills, but that the most important thing that he has learned from his time at the Bananas is the Fans First way. 

“They’ve taught me that baseball isn’t just about yourself. It’s about the atmosphere that you create. Every game is someone’s first game or and could potentially be their only game so you want to make it memorable for them,” Degen said.

This past Thursday, August 6th, was Degen’s last game as a Banana, and even though he didn’t get to take the mound due to rain, he still made it an amazing time for the fans. 

Degen was slip-n-sliding on the tarp, going up to fans and talking with them, and, of course, he was dancing. He’s always thinking of what he could do for the fans. 

Degen’s talent not only shines during the entertainment at the games, but also on the mound. 

Coach Gillum said,  “He’s a big competitor on the mound. We’re glad to have him on our side. He definitely has a good chance to be drafted.”

He has left a lasting legacy behind him and has impacted so many fans. The Bananas will have a 6’7” hole in our hearts, but we are so proud of the person and player that Alex has become. 

Players  like Degen are rare, and the Bananas are thankful and fortunate enough to have had him for two seasons.

Although Degen may never step foot on the mound again in Grayson Stadium as a player, he will always be a Banana. 

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