Ty Jackson’s Journey from JUCO Bandit to Internet Sensation

Written by Biko Skalla:


When Ty Jackson found out he was being offered a two-week temporary contract to play for the Savannah Bananas he knew what he had to do.

I’m gonna play my game, bring the energy whether I’m playing or not, and see if I can’t convince them to keep me for the whole summer,” Ty said.  

The first two parts of his plan were completely under his control. The third though, well that would be a whole different matter. It’s hard enough to turn a temporary contract into a full season on any summer colligate team let alone the veteran filled and incredibly talented 2021 Savannah Bananas. Although the competition between teammates to crack the Nanners starting lineup would be fierce, playing in Savannah also offered Ty a unique opportunity to showcase skills that would be valued more by the Bananas than any other team in the country.

“I probably knew around 30 Tik Tok dances,” Ty told me, chuckling. “I play the game with a lot of joy, and when I have success I’m gonna celebrate my way. That rubbed some people the wrong way playing junior college ball in Georgia. But I was pretty sure the fans in Savannah would enjoy it.”

Even the incredibly confident Ty Jackson couldn’t have predicted just how much not only the fans in Savannah, but people from all over the world would enjoy watching him entertain.


Ty grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, playing baseball and basketball for as long as he can remember. He would play both sports through high school, but always had a deeper love for the game of baseball and knew that it was what he wanted to pursue at the next level. He found plenty of personal and team success on the diamond in four years of varsity play at Mandarin High School. They won the region 2 out of his first 3 years, and by the fall of his senior year there was plenty of interest to bring Ty to campus from a variety of schools. While he was trying to figure out where the best place to take his talents would be, Ty played a fall travel ball game against Eric McCombie’s team. McCombie was taking over the East Georgia State baseball team the following year, and he loved what he saw in Ty.

“From the first time I met the kid I was just drawn to him,” McCombie told me, “and then he got 3 hits against our best arms and I offered him a scholarship right there. His ability is obvious, but his personality is one that makes me feel better about myself. In my first year as head coach I wanted a guy like that to build my program around.”

Ty would tour the 386 acre campus soon after he got the offer, and just a couple weeks after his visit he called up McCombie to say he wanted to play for him in Swainsboro.

“The combo of Coach McCombie and the energy I felt from the guys playing there convinced me this was the right place to be,” Ty said. “They were loud, and played aggressive, high energy baseball which I thought was a perfect fit for me.”

With his future in check, Ty was able to apply his full attention to his final season of high school ball. His two previous state tournament trips had fallen short of their ultimate goal, and now Ty and a handful of guys he had played baseball with since childhood set out for one last ride together.

The season started perfectly, with the Mandarin squad going undefeated in and ultimately winning the spring break tournament they competed in. Excited with the early success and rearing for league play to kick off, Ty and company would have their senior year of high school and the final season of baseball that went with it cancelled due to the COVID-19 virus just 4 days after winning the tournament.

It was really upsetting not getting to be able to finish that career on a high note,” Ty told me. “We knew we were the best in the region and just never got to go for states in the end.” 

Ty’s parents, Katrina and Corey Jackson, were heartbroken over all their son missed out on.

“It was miserable,” Katrina said. “He had no senior night, no chance to play in the playoffs again, he didn’t get a banner. We ended up buying one just for him so he could have a baseball banner.”

“Plus there were 3 or 4 guys who grew up playing baseball with him and that was their last chance to play together,” Corey chimed in. 

“It was like one bad thing after another, after another, after another,” Katrina grumbled. “That definitely sucked.”

Ty made the best of the situation as he could. He worked out vigorously all summer, and went into his first year of college baseball with high hopes. Unfortunately it didn’t start off well, as he struggled mightily throughout much of the fall season. Hitting under .200 going into the final few weeks, Ty got hot and brought his batting average north of .250 by the season’s end. Coach McCombie loved what he saw in those last couple weeks, but he had 3 returners for the outfield and would start the spring season with them out there and Ty on the bench. Ty had spent every day of winter break in the cage and while he completely understood why he hadn’t earned a starting job, he was chomping at the bit to get into a game. He wouldn’t have to wait long.

East Georgia started the season with a three game series against St. Johns River State. After sitting in the first game, Ty got a pinch hit opportunity in game 2 and laced a single for his first real collegiate hit. He immediately stole second and then scored a run. College baseball world, meet Ty Jackson. He would get another pinch hit opportunity the next night, once again seizing the opportunity by singling and scoring another run. The Bobcats would be swept by St. Johns and Ty wouldn’t get any action in game number four, which would be their first win. He would get his first career start though the following night in game five against Columbia International College. Ty went 2-2 with 2 doubles while driving in 3 and scoring twice. The team followed the opening series sweep by winning 12 of their next 13 games and Ty would start each of East Georgia State’s final 47 games of the season.

“I couldn’t take him out of the lineup,” Coach McCombie told me. “It was a different lineup and different team with him out there. Hell, I don’t know if he’s lost an intersquad since he’s been at East Georgia, I mean he’s just that kind of player, he’s a winner. With the energy he brings he has to be on the field because he feeds that to the other guys. He changed my mind real quick last spring, I mean I thought he was gonna be good but not that good. And he made everyone around him better too so he just had to play.” 

The numbers backed up the intangibles that Ty brought to the table. His .423 batting average and 27 steals in just 31 attempts both ranked 3rd overall in the Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association. He paced the Bobcats in both those categories, as well as with his 63 runs scored, 71 hits, and 12 doubles. He was the heart and soul of East Georgia State, playing with an abundant energy and flamboyant joy while tearing up the GCAA in his first year of college ball. But not everybody in the Georgia Junior College baseball world were thrilled with how Ty went about his business.

“I was out there playing the game with love and joy, and sure when I stole a base I would give it a little hump to celebrate,” Ty said chuckling, “but you know that’s just me playing the game with passion just I like I did in Savannah this past summer. A few opposing coaches lied and said I was flipping off their guys or spitting at them and nonsense like that when I was just out there celebrating and having fun.”

“I had a few opposing coaches call me and I back Ty up 100%,” Coach McCombie told me. “Everyone has this idea of how a baseball player is supposed to be and fit everyone into a box but that’s just not how the world is, that’s not how life is. I encourage Ty and all our guys to be themselves. And with that he’s also gonna get more back from other guys because of how much he puts out there himself, and you know he enjoys that, he thrives on it.”

The lack of universal love for Ty’s style of play showed in the GCAA awards that are based on voting by the league’s coaches. Ty’s phenomenal freshman campaign earned him 2nd-team all-conference as a DH. In 50 games played, he never once played in the DH spot for the Bobcats. And need I not remind you he was 3rd in the conference in batting average and steals while starting each of East Georgia’s final 48 games played.

Although his impressive season didn’t net Ty the award he justly deserved, it did open a door to an opportunity of a lifetime.

“Eric and I go back to the summer of 2012 when we coached against each other in the Myrtle Beach Collegiate League,” Savannah Bananas head coach Tyler Gillum told me. “I always kind of reach out to Eric throughout the year to see who’s in their conference and who he’s got on his team that may be good fits for the Bananas. So I called him to see if he had an outfielder who could come be a temp player for us in the first 2 weeks of the season. He said he’s got 2 guys who are really interesting, but Ty Jackson is 100% a Banana. That’s exactly what he told me.”

Coach McCombie explained the nuts and bolts of it, how you get an extremely talented player who brings a nearly cataclysmic amount of energy each and every day.

“I said, ‘look dude you can put him on a temp but he’s not gonna leave,” McCombie said. “He’s gonna be a legendary Banana.”

Gillum was caught hook, line, and sinker. So McCombie called Ty to let him know the Bananas were interested in giving him a temp contract.

“Coach had actually already asked me if I had wanted to play for them,” Ty said, “which I obviously said yes to and then preceded to tell everyone I knew that I was gonna be a Banana and it was gonna be the best summer of my life. When I was on my recruiting visit my senior year everyone on the team was talking about how Rick Mitchell had gotten to play for the Bananas and how crazy it was. I remembered thinking at the time that playing for the Bananas must be really life changing.”

If only he could have known how right he was back in the fall of 2019. He was signed on to play some local summer college ball down in Jacksonville as a backup, but when Ty got a call from Tyler Gillum his heart was set on Savannah.

He was literally on the toilet when Gillum called him,” Katrina said, laughing. “He walked right in the bedroom afterwards and he was so excited that the Savannah Bananas called, even though they just wanted him for 2 weeks. He had only been home for 3 days and had to turn around and leave for Savannah which was sad but it was a cool opportunity and we were all in for him to go.”

So Ty grabbed his bags that had hardly been unpacked since leaving Swainsboro, and soon was in Savannah working far harder than he imagined he would.

“A few days in I found myself asking, ‘How am I about to do this every single day of the summer?,'” Ty said. “I was so worn out by the music video and practice in the same day. Then we played our first game 2 days later and I sat down in the locker room after and Bill told me we had to go out and sign autographs. I asked him how they do this every single night because I was exhausted.”

If he really was that tuckered out, he didn’t show it on or off the field.

My first impression was his hair (half blonde, half black at the time), and that standing out combined with his body language, enthusiasm and smile,” Gillum said. “He brought some really impressive energy from day one and I think it only got stronger with time.”

When it was game time, with the Bananas were kicking off a momentous sixth season as a franchise, Ty’s style of play was introduced to the fanbase and, well, the fanbase fell in love. With the Nanners down 2-1 to the Bacon, Ty came across home to knot the game at 2 runs apiece, and looked to have a season ending injury at the same time…


he really said 😩😰 then 🦟🦗🦟🦗 #savannahbananas #baseball #baseballboys #foryou #InTheHeightsChallenge

♬ Wasp x Caroline – Kuya Magik 🪄

“Yeah man I’ve seen him do the hamstring twerk many times,” McCombie said, laughing. “He’ll pull it out in intersquads, he’ll pull it out in real games. I saw the clip and as soon as I saw him grab the hamstring I started laughing. He loves baseball so much, and loves having fun playing the game so much and I think it’s just fun it’s and that should be allowed right?”

 “I knew at some point I was gonna do it,” Ty said, chuckling, “And then bam the opportunity struck in my first ever at-bat and trip around the bases. The craziest part for me was that people caught me on camera doing it and I was not used to that at all.”

He wasn’t used to the 1.4 million views he would get on Tik Tok for it either. Two games later, Ty pinch hit for an injured Spencer Hanson and went 3-3 with a homer and a double in an impressive 7-5 come-from-behind Bananas victory in Macon. It was a magical season from the start, and once the team was 10-0 Ty finally felt like he had earned himself a permanent spot. As if the personal and team success wasn’t enough, he wasn’t just a one-hit viral wonder with his little twerking trick on home plate…


when TikTok deletes your mic’d up audio <<< #savannahbananas #baseball #micdup #foryou #NightDoneRight

♬ original sound – thesavbananas

The incredible timing of the embarrassing confession that he struck out with his girlfriend’s mom in the building, to the diving play that followed netted over 6.6 million views just on Tik Tok. And that doesn’t account for the millions more views Ty racked up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or on TV as this made it on ESPN and MLB Network. This had Bananas owner Jesse Cole and the entire marketing team, (yours truly included), banging the drum that Ty Jackson not only needed a full contract for the summer, but just a lifetime contract with the team.

While he was a constant in the Bananas lineup, he continued to star in videos that pulled in an enormous amount of views….


mid pitch bussin’ down to a tik tok dance might just be the most iconic thing we’ve ever done #savannahbananas #gobadbishh #foryou #baseball #dance

♬ –


@tyy2flyy got jokes fr fr #savannahbananas #baseballboys #fypシ #olympics #tokyo

♬ original sound – thesavbananas


@lizzo wya bestie? #savannahbananas #bananas #fypシ #QuickBooksVictoryPose #truthhurts


While the magical summer pounded on, Ty’s parents were consistently trying to convince him to inquire about his future with the team.

“The two week point went past and we were obviously happy he was still around but we weren’t sure how long they wanted him still,” Katrina said. “Basically every week from there on out I was asking him to talk to Gillum and he would always say, ‘Yeah, yeah I’ll ask today,’ and then he never would. He just wanted to keep playing and not rock the boat, and then one day in July Gillum called him to the front of the bus and offered him a full contract.”

“I told him we still had a couple more D1 guys coming in so playing time would probably decrease a little bit,” Gillum said. “But also he’s a phenomenal player and an even more important presence in the clubhouse with the amount of energy he brought for the team. I also said he had a full contract next summer if he wanted to stay the rest of the way with us.”

Personally, I’m almost certain that a full contract for the next summer was not necessary to keep Ty onboard. He was thriving on and off the field, and although that second year was obviously welcomed wholeheartedly by Ty, I’m not sure there was anything Gillum could have said for the kid to leave Savannah. In 29 regular season games for the Bananas he ended up hitting .318 with a .422 OBP, 26 runs scored and 17 steals in 21 attempts. His stellar summer earned him 2nd team All-CPL honors as he helped the Bananas to the best record in the league and homefield advantage through the playoffs.

The Bananas were blanked 4-0 by the High-Point/Thomasville Hi-Toms in game one at home, and then had to ship up north for game 2 on the road. After hitting Ty 7th in game 1, Gillum moved him up to the leadoff spot to try and get some energy early in the game. After a long at-bat, Ty lined out to center to kick things off. While he jogged back to the dugout he yelled to his teammates, “This is our guy! This is our guy!” It wasn’t just the Bananas who heard him either, but it was the Bananas who fed of the energy. Two batters later Danny Oberst hit a solo home run to left field for the Nanners first postseason run. They would rally to an 8-2 victory and a 10-0 win the following night to send them to the championship.

In the Big Rock Stadium in Morehead City, North Carolina, Game 1 of the championship looked to be all Marlins. The two-time defending champs led the game off with a home run and had jumped out to a 4-0 lead going into the 6th inning. Gillum gathered the guys and gave them an impassioned speech to try and spark a rally. Ty led off the inning with the Bananas first hit of the game, and came around to score on a Bryson Bloomer sac fly. After scratching across another run in the 6th, the Bananas got a Bill LeRoy walk and a Jesse Sherrill bunt single to set up Ty with 2-on and nobody out in the top of the 7th. He laid down a beautiful bunt of his own, and used his blazing speed to turn it into a hit, which set up a Livan Reinoso, 2-run, game tying double. Ty would score the go-ahead run on another Bloomer sac fly and the Bananas stole Game 1 in enemy territory.

The Nanners would lose Game 2 5-3, after leading 2-0 through 5 innings. With 2 outs and Bill on 2nd base Ty thought he had been hit but the umpire didn’t see it. When he tried to plead his case the opposing catcher had choice words for him. He would strikeout swinging to end the game, leading to more words, and benches cleared from both sides with the championship heading to a decisive Game 3.

“That’s one of the crazy things about Banana Land,” Ty said. “I was pretty fired up and I was yelling and going towards them until I felt our Dancing First Base Coach Maceo grab me from behind and pull me back to our dugout. That made me laugh when I thought about it afterwards.”

Gillum gathered the guys in the locker room after that game to try to right the ship.

“He basically just told us we were dogs, the toughest guys he’s ever coached, that we were gonna play our game tomorrow and we were gonna win the championship,” Ty said. “It fired us up pretty good.”

The Bananas did just that, drubbing the Marlins 13-3 to win the franchise’s first championship since the inaugural 2016 season.

It was super emotional,” Ty told me. “We were all worn out, and it was the culmination of the best summer of our lives. Winning that for the vets especially was so cool. And getting that after I had my last high school season cancelled the year before… It was all just perfect.”

Ty didn’t even have time to go home to Jacksonville, as he high tailed it straight from Savannah to Swainsboro for his second year at East Georgia.

It was definitely really sad I didn’t get to say goodbyes to some of the guys,” Ty said. “I know we’ll all meet again at some point in time. But it was such an incredible team with so many characters. That was the first team I had been on in my life with that many guys who I felt like matched my energy. It was really nice having whackos like Nick Clarno, both Bills, Eddie, Danny, Dearman, Drew, Cole, I mean the list goes on and on. I felt like I always got a lot of the energy back that I was putting out there.”

When Ty got back to Swainsboro his head coach who had kept a close eye on his summer in Savannah asked him to take it easy for a couple weeks.

I told him to take some rest this fall,” McCombie told me. “I feel like he needed a break from being that enthusiastic each and every day for so long. I asked him to rest all August. When he came back to school later that day I saw him in the cage. I’m looking forward to November when practice is over and everything and I’m gonna force his ass to sit down and decompress a little bit.”

Good luck with that, coach!

The summer in Savannah for Ty was just about as mutually beneficial as anything can be in the world. The Bananas got a star outfielder with a superstar personality, who was a major factor in taking back the Petitt Cup and also netted over 10 million views for the Bananas on just Tik Tok alone. Ty was the given the exposure he deserves from the Bananas ever-growing platform. He was bombarded with direct messages all summer from fans all over the world, thanking him for bring joy to their lives. He added tens of thousands of new followers to his own personal Tik Tok account, that was already massively successful before he stepped foot in Savannah. And quite possibly most important of all, Ty proved that his dynamite freshman campaign at East Georgia State was no fluke. He tossed his metal bat away for lumber and put up terrific numbers against some of the best competition in the country. And his performance between the lines inspired a plethora of schools to pursue his talents in his last two years of eligibility.

Through all the exciting new suitors of his talents, Ty was introduced to the coaches at Florida A&M. He visited the campus, loved the environment, the coaches, and the players, and now has himself a D1 scholarship to play ball after he plays one more spring season in Swainsboro.

“We really attribute that D1 scholarship to the Savannah Bananas because of the notoriety he got from his summer,” Katrina said. “He got calls from lots and lots of schools trying to get him on their campus and it turned out FAMU seemed like a perfect fit. We’re so grateful for the Savannah Bananas because we know it probably wouldn’t have happened without them.”

Plus, and this should come as no shock to anyone, he has in fact signed on with the Bananas for the summer of 2022 as well, and on a team that could bring back some serious talent there may not be a more important man to have onboard again.

Right away he made a huge impact on both the entertainment and baseball sides this summer,” Gillum said. “He was the first guy to get a Flip the Switch shirt. I tell the guys, the goal is to be undeniable. No matter what happens, people have to choose you because you’re the no-brainer. That’s what I said about Ty when he got his Flip the Switch shirt. The Twerk video went viral, he was hitting bombs, stealing bags, just doing it all.”

He’s one of the most infectious people I’ve ever been around and I can’t stress that enough,” McCombie told me. “He’s a guy who makes everyone around him better. He’s a program changing person. There’s no sugarcoating it or exaggerating it. He’s an amazing human being, a phenomenal ballplayer, and great friend to have. I just… I love the dude.”

The Jacksons were blown away by the love and support Ty received from Bananas nation in his first season there.

We were so shocked when he told us his jersey was the number one NIL, (Name, Image, and Likeness), jersey,” Katrina said. “I thought there was no way in the world he would ever sell more jerseys than Bill LeRoy!”

And Katrina makes a heck of a point. Through all the incredible things Ty did with the Bananas, if before the summer you said a first-year player was going to join this Bananas team and sell more jerseys than Bill LeRoy, every person in Grayson Stadium would laugh you right out of Daffin Park.

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