The Savannah Bananas and their archival, the Party Animals, have announced their coaching staffs for the 2024 Banana Ball World Tour. The Bananas will once again be led by Tyler Gillum and Adam Virant while the Party Animals are bringing back Mike Vavasis as their Head Coach. There are three new coaching hires in Bananaland as well. The Bananas are adding Ray Ortega as their new Hitting Coach. Ortega will also work with the team’s catchers. The Party Animals are adding Isaac Hess as the squad’s new Pitching Coach and Anthony Coromato as their new Hitting Coach.
Ray Ortega comes to Bananaland after three seasons with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the Atlantic League where he was the Hitting Coach for two summers and the team’s Bench Coach last year. The Blue Crabs broke every offensive franchise record during his time on the coaching staff. Ortega played collegiately at Manhattan College and professionally in the Frontier League, American Association, and the United Shore Professional Baseball League, where he transitioned from his playing career into coaching. He started as an Assistant Manager in the USPBL and then was promoted to the league’s Scouting Advisor. Following the 2018 season, Ray became the Bullpen Coach for the San Francisco Giants’ Triple-A affiliate, the Sacramento River Cats. He helped lead the River Cats to a AAA championship in 2019. From there Ortega went to Southern Maryland where he would get his first taste of Banana Ball when the Blue Crabs challenged the Bananas last June.
“I realized that Banana Ball is simply recapturing and reminding the younger generations of America’s favorite pastime, baseball,” Ray said about experiencing his first Banana Ball game. “It’s a new way to share the greatest game we all love and I’m thrilled to get to join in on the fun.”
Isaac Hess has had a wild journey through baseball before signing on as Party Animals Pitching Coach. After playing collegiately as a freshman at South Mountain Community College, hip replacement surgery prevented him from being able to play at Washington State and Arizona. But after rehabbing throughout his senior campaign, Hess returned to baseball and spent seven years as a pro. Throughout that time he played in five different countries and won four professional championships. In the United States, Isaac played in the Atlantic League, Golden League, American Association, and the Frontier League, where he threw a no-hitter in 2008. Internationally, he played in the Mexican League, as well in Canada, the Czech Republic and Australia. Hess founded MADE Baseball in 2005 (a baseball training organization in Los Angeles, California) and Cagelist in 2020 (essentially the AirBnB of batting cages). He has been a full-time professional baseball coach for over 15 years.
“I couldn’t be more grateful, humbled, inspired, and motivated to be a part of this organization,” Hess said. “The Baseball Gods are good and I am ready to help all of my pitchers be champions every day and put on the best show possible for all of our fans every single night!”
Anthony Coromato also joins the Party Animals coaching staff with a wealth of baseball playing and coaching experience. Coromato played collegiately at SUNY Cortland where he made two trips to the Division III College World Series. Anthony then made his pro debut in the Italian Professional Baseball League and spent two years on the Italian National Team. He has also played professionally in the American Baseball Challenge and in the Atlantic League. Coromato coached collegiately at Monroe College in the Bronx and collegiate summer ball with the Utica Brewers in the NYCBL. He has coached professionally with the New York Boulders, the Highpoint Rockers, at the Baseball Center NYC, and most recently has spent the last two seasons with the Charleston Dirty Birds in the Atlantic League as the team’s Hitting Coach and Bench Coach. Anthony is the Director of Baseball Operations and a co-owner of IndyBall Jobs and through that has helped over 100 players sign professional baseball contracts since 2020. Just like Ortega, Coromato got a crash course on Banana Ball last year when his team challenged the Bananas.
“I have been very blessed throughout my career both as a player and coach,” Coromato said. “This opportunity is truly once in a lifetime and I am so proud to join Fan’s First Entertainment. The combination of baseball, business, and entertainment is something that resonated with me and the vision and culture of the organization is inspiring.”
Tyler Gillum enters his seventh year at the helm of the Nanners. After five years as the collegiate Head Coach where he led the team to back-to-back Coastal Plain League Championships in 2021 and 2022, this is Gillum’s second tour leading the professional Banana Ball squad. Adam Virant’s return means he will be the only person to be a coach in all four World Tours. “Viro” was an Assistant Coach for the Bananas on the One City World Tour in 2021, he was the Party Animals head honcho for the 2022 tour, and now enters his second season helping Gillum lead the Bananas. Adam is also the Director of Baseball Operations for all Banana Ball teams. Like Viro, Mike Vavasis will be back for his fourth tour. After being a Party Animals player in 2021 and 2022, and the team’s Head Coach while still playing last year, “Vava” has completed his evolution as he has now become the full time Head Coach for the Bad Boys of Bananaland. Although, there is always a chance you could still see Vavasis doing his patented wobbly knee dance up to the dish and tap dancing in the box from time to time in 2024.