Porter goes Bananas

Dylan Porter with young Bananas fans.

The Savannah Bananas traveled to Northern California over the past few weeks, and I hope you had a chance to see them, as we did in San Jose on July 25.

The Bananas and their regular opponents, the Party Animals, play a unique form of baseball, with original rules and a focus on maximum fan entertainment and engagement at all times. Some of the novelties include stealing first base on any passed ball, advancing as many bases as possible on a walk before all nine of the defensive players touch the ball, and winning the game based on innings won rather than the total runs scored at the end of the game — with extra points for trick plays!

But you really don’t have to be a baseball fan to appreciate a Bananas game. Music blares throughout, the players (and coaches and umpires) dance during and between innings, and there’s constant fan involvement. Some of our favorite bits involved a blindfolded pillow fight among four teenagers, and a race around the bases after each member of two families spun themselves dizzy.

Dylan Porter deals for the Party Animals

The players are encouraged to develop their own on-field personalities and baseball tricks. One Bananas’ pitcher plays on stilts (unfortunately, he didn’t pitch in the game we attended); another pitcher gets rolled onto the field in a barrel, wears overalls, and has a variety of unusual pitches (which, unfortunately for the Bananas, didn’t fool many of the Animals’ hitters).

But we were really there to see Piedmont’s own Dylan Porter (PHS 2016), who’s played for both the Bananas and Animals over the past few years after successful PHS and college pitching careers. He started the San Jose game for the Animals, and pitched six impressive innings. Porter’s signature move is a balletic “pistol squat,” executed mid-pitch.

Porter started playing baseball in El Cerrito when he was six years old. He and his family (including fellow pitcher Adam, who graduated from PHS in 2018) moved to Piedmont in 2008, and Dylan played three years on the PHS varsity team. He recalled the NCS playoff game against Saint Mary’s in 2016 as a highlight of his Piedmont experience. “There was somewhat of a rivalry there. Piedmont had lost to them my freshman year in the NCS championship, and we also lost to them earlier in 2016. We went into extra innings and if we had lost, it would have been the end of my high school career. It was a really memorable game, with several big lead changes, and we won in the end.” 

Party Animals lined up before a game. Porter is #15.

Porter started his college baseball career at Santa Barbara City College, then moved on for a year each at Washington State and University of New Orleans. He mentioned winning a conference title at SBCC and his first Division 1 start at UNO as “really exciting moments in my college career.”

Porter got his start with the Bananas through a UNO teammate, Dylan Cunningham, who played for the Bananas’ college summer team. “Dylan reached out to me when they were looking for more players for their Bananaball summer series, which was six-games between the Bananas and Party Animals. I tried out in August and made the Bananas, which was a really cool way to start my experience in Bananaland.” 

Dylan at 6 in the El Cerrito Little League

The Bananas and Animals are part of the same organization, so I wondered how players are placed on each team. The focus during games is clearly on the Bananas, but the Animals are not the Washington Generals, the perennial losers to basketball’s supreme showmen, the Harlem Globetrotters. As Porter put it, “there’s no exact criteria. The teams are pretty even talent-wise, since these are real baseball games and they want them to be entertaining and competitive. On the Party Animal side, our group has meshed really well together, so I imagine there was thought put into fitting the team culture, as well. I played on the Bananas last summer, but it’s hard to know if I’ll ever play for them again. There’s always a chance!”

Dylan (left) and brother Adam before a weekend of PBSF games

The Bananas and Animals typically play in their home stadium in Savannah, but this summer they’re on a multi-State tour of the US, including stops in San Jose, Fresno, and Sacramento.

“We are treated really well on the road,” Porter said. “We are fed well, stay in nice hotels, and get a decent amount of free time to explore and do other activities as a team. One of the coolest things about being part of this organization is that they have a lot of connections, which means we have perks like getting field access at the [Cleveland] Guardians’ game and a suite at a Giants game. They provide a variety of special opportunities and experiences, and my teammates and I always have a great time exploring each new city. It was a blast to get to show the guys around California.”

Porter pitching for PHS

So Porter is obviously enjoying his Bananas’ experience, but he has some other baseball goals as well. “It is unclear where baseball will take me, but I would love to play Bananaball again. Other options that intrigue me are playing overseas and in a few of the top independent leagues in the US. I also still have aspirations of getting into affiliated baseball and chasing the ultimate goal of playing in the major leagues.”

Dylan left us with a few hot takes.

Toughest out on the Bananas? “I’d have to say Dan Oberst. He’s been their best hitter all year and a really strong player all around.”

Favorite dance routine: “We do one to “Yeah” by Usher, which is my favorite. I also like one we do to “Party Rock Anthem” by LMFAO, which is a close second.”

Favorite Banana Ball rule: “By far, a fan-caught foul ball counts as an out. It’s exciting, helps keep the fans engaged, and can help me as a pitcher!”

Photos by Randy Porter, Deborah Banks, and Julie Moll

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