Cody Stull is one of only two people who can say they have played for both of Jesse Cole’s baseball teams, the Gastonia Grizzlies and the Savannah Bananas. Cody and fellow southpaw, Zach Featherstone, both played for Jesse’s first summer ball squad in Gastonia, North Carolina. They are also both in Minor League Baseball now and with their 2020 seasons being cancelled had the unique experience of getting to pitch for the Bananas in the inaugural Breakfast Bowl series against the Macon Bacon.
Surprisingly though, it wasn’t Cody’s tie to Jesse Cole through the Grizzlies that brought him to Savannah this past summer. It was his college bullpen catcher at Belmont Abbey who reached out to him about the opportunity throw some innings against formidable competition in meaningful games. His old college bullpen catcher who happens to be none other than the Bananas President, Jared Orton.
“Jared had reached out to me to say that they had this thing called the Breakfast Bowl going, to see if I wanted to come down and pitch,” Cody said.
Cody told Jared he would have to get back to him because he wasn’t sure what the plan was for the rest of the summer with his employer, the Oakland Athletics. It turned out the A’s were all for Cody becoming a Banana.
“Our organization was like, ‘Yeah if you can get some innings, I mean it’s always good to stay sharp,’” Cody said.
All of a sudden, Cody realized he could be playing baseball in the summer of 2020. And not just any baseball, a certain brand of baseball that he had been keeping an eye on for years.
“I had always wanted to go see it,” Cody said, “I’ve kept up with the Savannah Bananas on Twitter and Instagram and I loved what they were doing. It was hysterical, and it just seemed like they had so much going on.”
With the A’s blessing to play, it was not a hard decision to make.
“When I had the opportunity and J.O. reached out to me it basically was a no brainer,” Cody said.
Cody came to Savannah in late August with an incredibly unique lens for what he was about to see. The last time he was on a Jesse Cole baseball team was 2012, incidentally the very year Jesse broke out the yellow tux for the first time. He had already experienced some of the eccentric ingenious that has propelled the Bananas to the top of the summer collegiate baseball mountain.
“We had fans there all the time,” Cody said. “We did one promotion, I think called ‘Midnight Madness,’ where we started a game right at midnight. I thought nobody would be there, but it was sold out. He (Jesse) did a heck of job promoting stuff.”
Cody thinks getting to play in front of raucous crowds with funky promotions occurring throughout the games was good preparation for his Minor League career.
“It was definitely a completely different world to me,” Cody said. “It set me up in a sense for Minor League Baseball because there are shenanigans going on in the stands, on the field, all around you and you’re trying to balance the fact that it’s really interesting and also trying to stay locked into the game.”
The man in the yellow tux said it was definitely an fun atmosphere in Gastonia.
“In 2012 I think we were 6th or 7th in the country for summer ball attendance,” Jesse said. “We created a few of the promotions there that live on today like ‘Pie Your Dad’ and ‘Dancing in the Dark.’”
Although the show in Gastonia was based much less on the players than it is in Savannah, Jesse called Cody a fan favorite at Sims Legion Park.
“He was always the first guy volunteering to dance and entertain the fans,” Jesse said. “He was a fierce competitor, but he was an original ‘Flip the Switch Guy’ who could turn it on when he had to and was truly fans first when he wasn’t in the game.”
Cody had a solid season at Belmont Abbey after his summer in Gastonia and although he had a lot of contact from pro teams, he watched the 2013 MLB Draft without hearing his name called. When it came to the 2014 MLB Draft following his senior year, he didn’t want to get his hopes up, so he decided to spend the day hanging out with friends at home. That was until the area scout called him and said the Oakland Athletics wanted to draft him in the 29th round.
“I told him I would sign for a plane ticket and a cheeseburger if I have to,” Cody said, chuckling.
In a beautiful twist of fate, Cody’s Mom happened to walk into the house with groceries right as he got the call that he was going to be drafted.
“We were jumping up and down screaming and celebrating.” Cody said, “Tears were being shed, it was a very cool day that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
Cody’s old bullpen catcher, Jared Orton was celebrating his 2nd Belmont Abbey pitcher being drafted in as many years.
“Emilio Pagán had been drafted the year before,” Jared said. “All of a sudden, a small nobody D2 school had guys going pro in back-to-back years so it was really crazy and so amazing to see Cody get drafted too.”
Cody has since played for every team the Athletics have except for short-season rookie ball and the A’s themselves. He is a part of Minor League Baseball history, winning two Texas League championships with Oakland’s Double-A affiliate, the Midland RockHounds, the 3rd and 4th in a row for the team.
“Anytime you win a championship and get a ring it’s amazing,” Cody said. “Those are some of the fondest memories I have in my baseball career so far, it was really a blast in Midland.”
He’s gotten to pitch against aging MLB legends and young studs alike. In a Spring Training against the Dodgers in 2017 he gave up a seeing-eye-single to Adrian Gonzalez and then got Joc Pederson to flyout. In his professional career he’s called Phoenix, Beloit, Nashville, Midland, Stockton, and Las Vegas his home. It has been an exciting, winding road through almost every stop in the A’s minor league system. With the Minor League Baseball season’s cancellation in 2020, Cody got the unexpected addition of Savannah to his list of baseball homes.
“We’ve always joked that he would be a Savannah Banana someday,” Jared said. “It’s been a running joke throughout the last few years, and it was amazing to actually get him to Savannah to pitch.”
When Cody did get to Savannah, he had jovial reunion with his great friend from school. The guys got to catch up, reminisce about the good ole’ days in Belmont, and Cody finally got to get the behind the scenes tour of the team he had been following closely for years. And when Cody stepped on the Historic Grayson Stadium mound he was absolutely dominant, throwing 3.2 scoreless innings with 6 strikeouts and only 1 hit, picking up the win in a comeback victory for the Bananas.
“Everyone there is so bought into the fact that we’re playing a baseball game, but the most important thing is the fans having fun,” Cody said. “They’ve just done a heck of a job of betting on themselves in sense and have shown you can run a full baseball game with whacky promotions, free food, and no sponsors. It’s honestly mind blowing.”
Cody tacked on 2 scoreless innings for the Bananas in Macon for an overall sterling start to his career in Savannah. He is a free agent this coming off-season, and although we do not know where he will be playing baseball next, Jesse Cole has a proclamation he wanted to be put down in writing.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Cody in a Bananas uniform once again.”