This team is reinventing baseball one game at a time. Banana Ball world tour comes to Fresno

Hunter D. Cone/Hunter D. Cone, the Savannah Bananas

The Savannah Bananas announced on Monday that it would take its “World Famous Baseball Circus” on the road in 2023 for a 32-city tour.

It will include a stop at Fresno’s Chukchansi Park.

“Taking the Bananas to Fresno has been something we’ve heard constantly from our fans over the years,” the team’s owner Jesse Cole said in a statement announcing the July 27 game.

“We are fired-up to bring an unforgettable show to them this spring.”

We bet he said that to all the cities.

More than 700 cities were vying for a spot on the 2023 tour. Fresno was one of 32 chosen and one of just four in California. The team is in Sacramento July 29.

If you haven’t heard about the Savannah Bananas, you probably don’t follow much sports news. The team’s success — from 180 sold-out games at the 4,000-seat Grayson Stadium in Savannah, Georgia, to its 2022 World Tour, which had its own 5-part documentary on ESPN+ — has been well documented.

The team reinvented baseball by increasing the pace of the game. They slam everything into a two-hour time limit with a a one-on-one tiebreaker showdown if the need arises. There’s no bunting, but batters can steal first base and fans can catch foul balls for outs.

There is also a whole cast of ancillary characters, dancers, performers, mascots and musicians.

It’s baseball as a publicity stunt. The team has played a game in kilts and had a dancing first base coach (separate from the Banana Nanas Dance Team). It also featured a Banana Pep Band, breakdancing players and the first baseball player to wear stilts in a game.

Not that there isn’t some professionalism among the spectacle.

The Bananas and its touring rival team, the Party Animals, have rosters filled by pro players like Bill LeRoy and Kyle Luigs who have been scouted, tried out, and signed contracts just for the tour. The 2022 tour team included former Major League stars Jake Peavy, Jonathan Papelbon, Jonny Gomes, Josh Reddick, Bill Lee and Johnny Bench.

Support from Banana Nation

As one might expect, The Bananas are heavy hitters (pun intended) on social media, with more than 3 million followers on TikTok. That’s more than any MLB team. The San Francisco Giants have 386,300 followers, for comparison. The Fresno Grizzlies have 1,584.

News of the tour was well received. Fans crashed the team’s website on Monday. In a Facebook post on Monday, the team said tickets to the game will go on sale two months prior to each event and that more ticket information would be available when the website was back up and running.

“Banana Nation—y’all really showed up!,” the team wrote.