Written by Biko Skalla:
The most exciting game in Bananas history is this Saturday night. That is not hyperbole. A team full of former Major League Baseball Players has challenged the Bananas to three games of Banana Ball across the 2023 World Tour. First pitch of Game 1 will be at 7:00 pm ET on Saturday night, while the broadcast will kickoff at 6:30pm on the Bananas YouTube page. It will be free for the world to watch, with the only requirement being an internet connection. This is the first of eleven different challengers that will take on the Bananas this year.
The MLBPAA team will be coached by three-time World Series Champion and Oakland Athletics Hall of Famer, Dave Stewart. Two former Bananas are trading in their yellow unis to join their fellow former MLB brethren: Johnny Damon and Jonny Gomes. Damon played for the Bananas in Daytona just a couple weeks ago and Gomes played for the Bananas against the Kansas City Monarchs in last year’s Challenger Series and then again for the Nanners in the Summer Series against the Party Animals.
I’m not Dave Stewart, obviously, but if I was I would give Jeremy Guthrie the ball to start the game. The 13-year MLB vet mentioned on the Baseball Legends Lounge that he’s up to 88.4 mph in his most recent bullpen and he thinks with the adrenaline of pitching in a game he can touch 92 on Saturday. That would leave Smoke with John Doherty, Collin Balester, Alex Wilson, Ben Kozlowski, and two-time National League Reliever of the Year, Heath Bell, at his disposal in the bullpen.
If Damon and Gomes both start in the outfield, the third spot out there will be hotly contested for between Billy Burns, Brian Barton, and Luis Montanez. I would put John Buck behind the dish, Daniel Descalso at shortstop, Mike Morse at third, Orestes Destrade at first, and then second could be George Kattaras or one of the spare outfielders.
Banana Ball will certainly be an adjustment for the hitters, who have a combined 92 years of Major League Baseball experience. The pitchers get to control the pace with hitters unable to leave the batter’s box once they step in unless they foul a ball off. Of course, Damon and Gomes will have an advantage here as they’ve already experienced Banana Ball at-bats.
I think on the mound Collin Balester will fit right in, as he’s already proven he can move it and groove it with the best…
I’m excited to see what John Buck can bring to Banana Ball too, as I’ve heard he can rip a handstand all the way around the diamond.
The MLB Alumni team will be facing Christian Dearman, AKA “Mr. Electric,” on the mound, who’s already proven he can dice up former major leaguers with ease…
You just saw the first strikeout of the side in Banana Ball history where all three hitters were MLB vets. We’ll see if Dearman can do it again on Saturday.
It’s going to be fascinating to see what the MLB Players Alumni Association team can do in their Banana Ball debut! Remember, the pregame show will kick off on the Bananas YouTube page at 6:30 pm ET and first pitch will be at 7:00 pm sharp!