Bananaland, a five-part ESPN+ documentary series about the Savannah Bananas baseball team, aired its premier episode on Friday, August 19. As with all things Savannah Bananas, the series features Saugerties High School Class of 2015 alum Biko Skalla in his role as the team’s broadcast entertainer. The remaining four episodes of Bananaland will air on ESPN+ on Fridays through September 16. The network will also air live Banana Ball games on consecutive Friday and Saturday nights, August 26 and 27, and September 2 and 3.
The Savannah Bananas are a wood bat collegiate baseball club playing in the Coastal Plain League (CPL), 15-teams spread across Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. What sets the Bananas apart, and what likely captured the attention of ESPN, is their commitment to a fun atmosphere on and off the field, with a breakdancing first base coach, the Banana Nanas — an all-grandmother dance team — and a professional luchador called Voodoo Jack among fan-friendly initiatives that helped the team achieve an 88-game sellout streak at Grayson Stadium, an historic 4,000-capacity Savannah ballpark.
Bananaland follows the ballclub’s players, coaches and staff — Skalla included — on a seven-city “World Tour” as they attempt to introduce not only their infectious energy, but also Banana Ball, which counts among its nine rules no walks, batters can steal first, no bunting, no mound visits and any foul ball caught by a fan counting as an out.
In mid-June 2020, Skalla left behind a steady associate producer job with MLB/NHL Network after seeing job opening posted by mercurial Bananas owner Jesse Cole, also the founder of Fans First Entertainment.
“To say this was unlike any other job description I’ve ever seen would be an understatement,” Skalla said in 2020. “Most of them are pretty cookie cutter: You’re going to have media responsibilities, maybe you might have to do some sales. This one, right off the bat, no resume no cover letter required. They wanted three innings of play-by-play of literally any game ever. And they wanted three fresh ideas for the broadcast as well. And they had a little link to the Bananas story. After I watched that 19 minute and 43 second clip on the Bananas website I was like, ‘Holy you-know-what, I’ve got to get down there and see what’s going on. At least as a fan, at some point I need to see a game here.’ But I would love to be on the inside broadcasting.”
Skalla’s in-game commentary and social media reports quickly became a hit with Bananas backers, so much so that he’s become an essential piece of the Savannah Bananas puzzle.
“Baseball should be really exciting,” Skalla said. “The Bananas are probably the most unique opportunity in the country…This is a great place for me to really just let loose. (Collegiate baseball) is just a more pure example of the game, because everyone’s dreams aren’t fulfilled yet. Everyone’s younger and full of hope and trying to get to the major leagues, and it’s a lot of fun to see.”