Written by Biko Skalla:

 

What an insanely wild ride 2022 has been for all of us in Bananaland. 73 games across seven different cities. Time flies when you’re having fun. Of course the fun never truly ends here, as we’ve got two more episodes of Bananaland set to come out on ESPN+ on each of the next two Fridays and our social media accounts will consistently be firing off content we’ve stored away for months like a bear packing on the pounds before hibernating. Unlike our furry friends though we won’t hideaway in a cave for the next five and a half months. You can still come give us a visit at Historic Grayson Stadium to pop in on the Banana Stand and get a behind the scenes look at our 96-year-old ballpark. Plus we’ll have plenty of news coming out in the near future highlighted by the schedule for our 2023 Banana Ball World Tour set to be released in October. Anyhow, this is just a long way of saying it’s only getting crazier from here, especially after seeing all the madness that ensued over the six games of our Banana Ball Summer Series.

The Summer Series will always be intertwined with the five-part Bananaland documentary series, as game one and episode one both premiered on ESPN2…

But before we got to August 19th when the lights were shining brighter on our spectacle in Grayson Stadium than ever before, the guys had plenty of work to put in to prepare for such a stage…

Once that fateful day finally arrived, our favorite 75-year-old 14-year MLB vet, Bill “The Spaceman” Lee, was ready to give Bananas coach Adam Virant all he could handle in a pregame tussle…

A spitting image of the May 20th, 1976 bruhaha in Yankee Stadium.

The finishing touch in our preparation of course was making a ridiculously amazing music video that has skyrocketed into my personal top ten all-time favorite Bananas pieces of content…

Truly a testament to our marketing team that I had to include four videos before we could even get to the first inning of game one. Once it was time to do what we do best, well Kyle Luigs was ready to make history, kicking off our ESPN2 debut with the fastest strikeout in Banana Ball, and I think it’s safe to say baseball history…

Two batters later and DR Meadows had already made a name for himself in centerfield after his incredible summer campaign as an infielder for the 2022 CPL Champs…

Talk about an athlete! Doc also learned how to backflip about three days before this. Remarkable stuff.

The Nanners walked off the first and second innings, highlighted by this superb run scoring celebration from Jackson Olson and company…

@espn

He had us in the first half 😮 @thesavbananas #baseball #funny #dance #celebration

♬ original sound – ESPN

The timing here from everyone involved amazes me every time I watch that dazzling dance.

Thanks to four innings of no-hit, seven-strikeout work from Mr. Luigs on the mound, who was dancing the whole way through…

The boys in yellow took a two-point lead into the sixth inning where the Party Animals struck for three runs. Naturally, head coach Eric Byrnes looked for a spark from his bench and pinch hit Dakota “Stilts” Albritton to leadoff the bottom half. Stilts was 0-3 in his career as a Banana with a K and a couple groundouts. AKA he was due!

Everyone please disregard that silly broadcaster calling “Stilts,” “Splits” in the most important moment of Dakota’s career thus far. No matter what I called the 10’9″ wonder, his leadoff single sparked a four run rally capped by an inning-walk-off single from Ryan Cox that all but secured a 3-0 win for the Bananas. There were about 23 other moments I would have loved to highlight but thankfully my good friend Ivan Traczuk slapped it all together in one video for us…

With a little help from Johnny Cash we were able to grab all of our people and equipment and race to Grayson Stadium for game two…

Before we get into the action of our second game I would be remiss not to include DR’s insane pregame entrance…

That’s a stunt that I think even Taylor Justus’s parents would appreciate.

Into the game we go, and the Party Animals had an terrific opportunity to start the scoring in the second with the bases juiced and just one out against Jared Donalson…

The Nanners would not score in the bottom half of the inning so we head into the third where Jackson was doing his best Bill LeRoy impression at the hot corner…

A Breland Almadova single and steal of second later and Dalton Mauldin was ready to put it all on the line to make a circus snag…

Brandon Sherman continued to trade zeros with Donny so we jet into the fourth frame still scoreless where Noah Bridges showed why he and DR in center may be the most exciting outfield duo in the sport…

 

And our game would be scoreless no longer in the bottom half of the frame because one of the best hitters in franchise history simply had enough of this tie game nonsense…

After the fourth inning walk-off bomb the Nanners wouldn’t look back, winning the fifth and seventh innings while dropping just the sixth to secure a 3-1 win.

As we headed to week two of the Summer Series we got episode two of Bananaland…

As fun as episode one was getting to see the building of the team and the dream, episode two having the first weekend of Banana Ball and the creation of our 3-2-2 dances was probably the most mind boggling thing yet. I feel like can’t remember a world without them at this point!

After a scoreless first inning the Party Animals put three runs on the board in the second to win the frame.

Doc was back at his absolute nonsense to end the top of the third inning by combining his newfound backflipping skill with catching a ball which still has my mind boggled…

That setup our good buddy Bill LeRoy for a third inning walk-off single to tie the game up at a point apiece.

The Nanners would jump ahead on a Pearce Howard fourth inning walk-off double but the Party Animals would win the fifth, sixth, and seventh innings to take a 4-2 lead into our eighth and final frame of the night. With our amended scoring rule in place that in the last inning every run you score counts as a point, Matt Malatesta was able to strand runners on second and third in the top half and then Olson and Jason Swan scored on walks to Swan and Bridges respectively, tying the game 4-4.

Both teams scored in the first round of showdowns with Dalton Cornett driving in Andrew Don who had worked a walk and then Dan Oberst doing the damage all by himself with an inside the parker. Malatesta was able to get Breland out at home plate to kickoff round two and then Mr. Meadows ended the ballgame with a smash into left-centerfield that allowed him to take an unimpeded trip around the bases.

Looking for their first win of the series on Saturday, Don and Cornett smacked back-to-back two-out doubles to get the Party Animals a 1-0 win in the first.

Both teams pushed two runs across in the second to cancel each other out and then with one out in the third inning Josh Reddick made his presence known…

Talk about rising to the occasion!

And four pitches before that…

The Bananas snagged the third inning and the Party Animals took the fifth to make it 2-1. Into the sixth we went and it was time to get a little extra height out of our first baseman…

Not sure Christopher Vazquez could do that again in 100 attempts off Tucker Perry.

Perry used a unique 8-6 double play to escape the jam unscathed and LeRoy drove in Bridges in the bottom half to tie the game up 2-2.

That setup the pride of Savannah, Josh Reddick for another magical hometown moment…

Here’s where the obligatory “I got smoked in the forehead by a one-hopper when throwing batting practice the night before and that’s why I have a blackeye” sentence has to be added. Classic Biko mistake right there.

Ryan Cox would walk-off the eighth with a double and Dylan Porter threw two hitless frames to shut the door on a 4-2 Bananas win in a nine inning ballgame that we finished within the two-hour time limit.

To the third and final weekend we go, which means it’s time for a sneak peak into episode three of Bananaland…

Jake Peavy: the absolute man. I cannot wait to see him back on the mound for the Bananas next year.

Now there were a plethora of reasons to be fired up for our third and final weekend but I’m not sure any were higher on the list than having my dear friend Ripken in the building to take care of bat snagging duties for the Bananas.

I mean come on…

Ripken is the light of my life.

Once it was time to play ball it was a double from Danny and a single from Pearce to walk-off the first inning. The Party Animals responded with a 2-0 win in the third and then the Bananas jumped back out in front in the fourth with one of the more bizarre walk-offs you’ll see from start to finish…

I live for people inch-worming. Then you add in that it was in the dirt, with the Aladdin costume on and to score an inning walk-off run. That’s my jam right there!

An inning later the Party Animals got help from one of their fans to keep the Nanners off the board…

Absolutely LOVED a Party Animals fan being able to come up big for his team. Unfortunately for David and the rest of the Party Animals fan club, they blew a two run lead in the sixth as Pearce Howard collected his second walk-off single of the game giving the Bananas a 3-1 lead in points.

The Animals bounced back with two runs in the top of the seventh though and limited the damage in the bottom half of the frame to this monster shot from The Songbird of Our Generation…

We had our fourth former MLB star in three weekends as Jonathan Papelbon slapped on a kilt and came out to try and close down the game in our eighth and final inning. It turned out not throwing in a game since he was with the Washington Nationals in 2016 meant he was a tad rusty, as the six-time all star walked three Party Animals, allowing them to tie the game…

But a Bill LeRoy steal of first base and a Dan Oberst walk-off double in the bottom of the eighth sent the Nanners fans home happy with a 4-3 win.

To our 73rd and final game of 2022 we go, and it was a somber scene in both clubhouses beforehand…

I will tell you though one guy who’s spirits couldn’t be dampened by neither the end of our banner year nor some rain that pushed our start time back nearly a half an hour…

The ageless wonder. What a miraculous man.

After a scoreless top of the first from Donny, it only took three batters for the Bananas to take the lead…

The second inning ended tied at two runs from each side and then the Party Animals tied the game by winning the fifth inning one to zip.

After a scoreless top of the sixth we got to throw the remaining 912 Choco Tacos in the world out to the 191st straight sold out crowd in Grayson and that’s all we have to say about the sixth inning, right?

Ahhh unfortunately no. While the now extinct ice cream sandwiches were being hurled at fans I was alone in the dugout trying to figure out what helmet, batting gloves, and bat I could use for my moment of glory in the box. Once I had found some suitable tools for my at-bat I turned around and realized that after being told I would get to face anyone but Derrick Sylve, I had to face Derrick Sylve. It was a tied game and the Party Animals were trying to snag their first win in their last opportunity to do so in the Summer Series and that put me up against the grandson of Willie Stargell who doesn’t throw anything straight and his cut and sinking fastballs both exceed 90mph. As Illidan Stormrage says when you reach him at the top of the Black Temple in World of Warcraft, “I was not prepared.” In my search to get the proper equipment I never even had a chance to time up the 6’6″ righthander, and stepped into the box immediately amazed by the speed of the heater that whizzed past my face. Three cuts and misses on two cutters and one sinker later and I was heading back to the dugout officially 0-3 in my Bananas career after a groundout to shortstop at the end of 2020 and a bouncer to first at the tail-end of last summer. There’s always next year, aye.

Luckily for the Bananas after my strikeout and a Bill LeRoy fly to left, Dan who was completely prepared, singled, stole second and then scored on a Noah Bridges ball four sprint to win the inning and jump back ahead 2-1…

The Party Animals would win the seventh 3-2 to tie the game back up at two points for each team.

After a scoreless eighth inning we went to Tiebreaker Showdowns where Jonathan Papelbon got Almadova to bounce to Malachi Mitchell with one well executed splitter and then Dan Oberst scored on a poor tag attempt by Party Animals catcher Calvin Butler. It was an odd but exciting way to end the Banana Ball Summer Series, putting a bow on an absolutely bonkers year in Bananaland.

As I mentioned at the top, keep it locked to Bananas social media pages over the next five months to get a deluge of top notch content as well as loads of pertinent information about our World Tour in 2023. And please checkout Bananaland on ESPN+, where three episodes are out and the final two will drop this coming Friday, September 9th and the following Friday, the 16th.

For all of my dear friends in the Bananas front office, the coaches and players of the six different teams we fielded this year, and the stellar cast and crew that makes up the circus surrounding the games, a heartfelt thank you goes out to the greatest fans in all the world. We don’t sellout Grayson over 190 straight times without you, we don’t have over 2 million more followers than any MLB team on Tik Tok without you, and our never-ending quest to make baseball fun does not matter in the slightest without you. What an amazing year it has been. In the words of the Man in the Yellow Tux himself, “We’re just getting started.”