The Coastal Plain League has named the Savannah Bananas, located in Savannah, Ga., the 2021 CPL Organization of the Year. Savannah is owned by Jesse and Emily Cole of Fans First Entertainment.
“The Savannah Bananas had one of the best all-around years ever in the CPL,” said Justin Sellers, COO/Commissioner of the Coastal Plain League. “To lead the entire country in average attendance, have one of the best team records in league history and be recognized nationally, including a feature on SportsCenter is quite an accomplishment. Jesse, Emily, Jared, Berry, Tyler and their whole staff do an amazing job each season and we are happy to have them as a part of the Coastal Plain League! Every year brings new ideas and we look forward to seeing what they have in store for 2022.”
Savannah was chosen after collecting input on every facet of an organization from team owners, general managers, umpires, players and league officials. A few, but not all, factors under consideration for voters were an organizations overall game-day operations and atmosphere, hospitality, community involvement and fan engagement.
“To be recognized by the league and our peers means a lot,” said Jesse Cole. “More than anything, it’s a testament to buy in of our entire team on the fans first vision and the culture that’s been built and the impact it has made.”
It’s this fans first vision that truly leads every step the Bananas take as an organization. From the parking penguins that greet fans as they pull up, to players and staff shaking the hands of every veteran in the stands each and every night, to the dance-party in the plaza as fans leave following the game – a memory is made at every turn.
The team was also loaded with talent. In total they finished with 13 All-CPL performers (six being first team selections) and saw the ace of the team’s staff Joe Miller when CPL Pitcher of the Year honors.
“Joe Miller was lights out this summer,” said Bananas head coach Tyler Gillum. “He started out on a temp contract and was only suppose to be here for two weeks. Fortunately for us, he stayed the entire summer and led us to a CPL championship. He is a special player but even better person. He was one of our best teammates and hardest workers all summer. It’s awesome to see him earn this award.”
Off the field the Bananas continued their rise in popularity reaching over 1-million total followers on social media, with over 850,000 of those coming on TikTok which is 200,000 more than any MLB team has on the platform. The team was also featured in stories from USA Today, the Boston Globe, CBS Sports and most recently were highlighted in a SportsCenter Feature short.
While the team debuted numerous successful promotions and campaigns in 2021, one of the most noteworthy came late in the season when the Bananas were the first team to help players take advantage of the new Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) rules for NCAA players that went into effect in July. Each player chose a picture of themself to put on a specialty jersey that was worn in a game on July 30 and auctioned off there after to fans.
“The idea has always been in the back of our mind as something we wanted to do once it became allowed,” explained team President Jared Orton. “These players are celebrities and heroes to our fans, so we knew it was something people would love. When we presented the first mock up of Jesse Sherrill’s jersey with his face all over it, the players were screaming and laughing as hard as I’ve ever seen.”
The campaign garnered huge attention online and the sells event became the biggest merchandise weekend in the team’s history. Once the auction and jersey sells were completed the team distributed over $7,000 across the team, all in compliance with the new NIL rules.
To say the least 2021 turned out to be the most successful season in the team’s brief history on and off the field, but the train is barely getting started for this organization.
“Our goal is to continue to make baseball fun and strive towards being the most fan-centric company in the world,” said Cole. “We have a strong vision for Grayson Stadium, Bananaland and to spread more fans first fun all over the world in the years to come.
To stay up-to-date on all things Bananas visit www.thesavannahbananas.com and follow the team on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok @thesavbananas.