What is Banana Ball? Here are the Savannah Banana rules of the game

Savannah Bananas outfielder Malachi Mitchell and other players take to the field.
Savannah Bananas outfielder Malachi Mitchell and other players take to the field before a game against the Kansas City Monarchs earlier this season.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

For a collegiate summer league team — playing a rung below the minors — the Savannah Bananas draw big crowds when they barnstorm through the South and Midwest during the offseason. Fans come to see “Banana Ball,” a quirky version of baseball with a whole different set of rules. “We looked at every boring play,” franchise owner Jesse Cole says, “and we got rid of it.”

Fans in the game: Any foul ball caught by a spectator counts as an out.

No time to waste: Neither managers nor catchers can visit the mound and if a batter steps out of the box between pitches, it’s a called strike.

Run don’t walk: The moment the umpire calls “ball four,” the batter takes off sprinting and the defense snaps into action. Runners can keep going until the ball is thrown to every fielder, including outfielders. A walk can turn into a home run.


More running: Batters can steal first on any passed ball or wild pitch, regardless of the count.

No bunting. Really: If a batter bunts, he is thrown out of the game.

Match play: “Banana Ball” is like match play in golf. The team that scores the most runs during an inning gets a point for that inning. The win goes to the team with the most points at game’s end.

Skeleton crew: During extra innings, the defense gets only a pitcher, catcher and one fielder. If the batter puts the ball in play, he must try to round the bases and score before the ball is chased down and thrown home for an out.

Early to bed: “Banana Ball” has a strict time limit, with no new inning started after 1 hour 50 minutes.