Written by Biko Skalla:
You could not have written a better script for the opening weekend of the 2023 Banana Ball World Tour. It was the two greatest games in Banana Ball history. A walk-off 5-4 win for the Bananas on night one that only took one hour and 54 minutes to play. Then a miraculous 9-6 come-from-behind victory for the Party Animals in night two that went to three rounds of Tie-Breaker Showdowns and only took two hours and seven minutes to complete.
It was ridiculously hard to narrow down all the magical moments of the weekend into just the twelve best. But with the help of a handful of players and coaches from both sides, as well as some of my most trusted members of the Bananas front office, we did the deed. Here are your top 12 moments of the weekend, in semi-chronological order.
First Pitch of the Tour Goes to the Hall of Fame
One of the many mind boggling aspects of the weekend was the first yellow ball we’ve used in a game being immortalized in the National Baseball Hall of Fame…
Didn’t have that on my “Things that will happen during my time with the Savannah Bananas” bingo card when I journeyed south to broadcast collegiate summer baseball back in 2020.
Kyle Luigs Throws a Baseball on Fire
I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would ever see a ball on fire in somebody’s hand immediately before a pitch in a game. To be fair I also never thought I would see a bat on fire either. But even after we had the bat set ablaze during last year’s tour, any time the mention of a ball on fire happened I figured it was impossible and didn’t give it any serious thought. How silly I am. Nothing’s impossible in Bananaland.
Here’s how it looked on the broadcast…
Cowboy Kyle just barely missed the outside corner. The angle that’s gone viral doesn’t do Mr. Luigs justice, and he’s taken A LOT of flak from the online world for throwing a ball on the first ever fireball, which cracks me up. I’d love to see anybody who chirped him online try their luck at a strike with a ball on fire.
Dalton Mauldin’s Two Walk-offs and Pregame Concert Earns Him Showman of the Opening Night
The Songbird of Our Generation performed an unreleased song of his, ‘Miss You, Love You,’ before the first pitch on Friday night…
Any time we’re not together, Dalton, I miss you, love you, and am thinking of you too.
His first walk-off double was in the bottom of the third inning and I’m showing you the whole half inning for two reasons:
- The whole thing was less than two minutes
- Legendary MLB writer, analyst, and historian, Tim Kurkjian, was on the broadcast with me and hearing his thoughts on Banana Ball is one of the greatest things that has happened in my life.
Thank you again for hopping on, Tim, you’re welcome back any time!
Also, I know it looks like Tim and I are being held hostage in a basement somewhere. I can promise you we’re both A OK and I had a much brighter and more more beautiful set up in the booth for night two.
Back to the action. Dalton had his second walk-off double of the night when it mattered most…
Perfect ending to a perfect opening night of the World Tour.
The Return of Bill Lee
Forget the top 12 moments of the weekend, this is one of my top 12 moments in Bananas history…
Then you add in that he easily could have had a 1-2-3 frame (Dan lost that flare in the lights right before he dove for it), and you get another example of the magic of Bananaland. The Leephus was as good as it’s ever been on Friday night.
The Invader has Landed
We may not know what part of the galaxy DJ hails from, but we do know he can throw the heck out of a baseball. His debut in Bananaland was a 1-2-3 top of the 8th inning on Friday night that only took two minutes and seven seconds. He followed that up with a one-minute, 34 second 1-2-3 top of the 8th on Saturday…
This was the third fastest inning in Banana Ball history!
Monster Home Runs from Bloomer, Cornett, and Jones
The three moonshots were kicked off by Bryson Bloomer, who in the third at-bat of his Party Animals career did some serious damage to his Bananas teammate from last summer…
Then leading off the ninth inning with the game tied at two points apiece Dalton Cornett took trip to the Land of Good and Plenty to put the Party Animals ahead…
Now we head to game two, where Eric Jones made the executive decision that he would be the only man to hit in the bottom of the fourth inning…
I would pay every penny of my life savings to have seen Tim Kurkjian’s reaction to EJ leading off and promptly ending the bottom of the fourth inning without an out being recorded.
Split Gets in on the Pre-Pitch Dance
I had no idea that Split got in on the boogie normally reserved for our pitcher, middle infielders, and centerfielder, until I saw this on our Tik Tok…
And I didn’t notice Vincent grooving with the fellas until I looked at some of the comments. There’s just so much going on and it all happens so fast. Safe to say I’ve probably watched this video close to 50 times now and it only gets better with age.
Jake Lialios Dances His Way to Showman of the Night in Game Two
I mean the tweet pretty much sums it all up. Great work, Jake!
Mat Wolf with a Flipping Good Inning
Mat got a groundout, plunked Tanner “Tinder” Thomas, and got a 5-4-3 double play to face the minimum for a tidy two minute and 19 second season debut.
A Fan Catches a Ryan Cox Foul Ball for an Out
I mean what are the chances of that?! Daniel is a left-handed pitcher and had just bought the Party Animals jersey he’s wearing at the game. Party Animals head coach Mike Vavasis immediately sprinted up to Daniel and hoisted him onto his shoulders while doing the “Toga, toga, toga,” chant. Party Animals reliever Collin Ledbetter got up to celebrate with the young fan too, and Vava and Collin ended up stuck in the stands signing autographs for over 20 minutes. Of course, they couldn’t have been happier to end up in such a predicament.
Bret Helton Breaks the Banana Ball Minutes-Per-Inning Record
The Party Animals Erase 4-Point 9th Inning Deficit and Win Game 2 in Showdowns
What even made it possible for Bret Helton to pitch on Saturday night? Well all it took was the greatest 9th inning comeback in Banana Ball history…
To Showdowns we go, and boy oh boy what a wild three rounds of Showdowns it was…
I think I’ll take 85 more of these and I’d like to travel to 32 more cities and another 19 states please. It’s bonkers that my demands will actually be met over the next eight months.
This whole thing feels like a dream, I mean you couldn’t have scripted a better start. The bar has been set high. Time to put on two more incredible shows in Daytona, Florida, this coming Wednesday and Thursday night and then have a historic seven-year anniversary bonanza back in Savannah on Saturday February 25th.
We’re off and running. I can’t wait to see what happens next!