Area grad living ‘dream’ with Savannah Bananas

Credit: Name Test

Credit: Name Test

Voorhees: ‘You can come to a Bananas baseball game, support a game you love, America’s pastime and have a good time doing it.’

SAVANNAH, Ga. — Gage Voorhees’ baseball dream is coming true this summer in Bananaland.

The Northwestern High School graduate and Champion City Kings alum is pitching for the viral Savannah Bananas, a collegiate summer wooden bat team that plays in the Coastal Plain League.

The Bananas, however, aren’t your typical college summer baseball team. The difference, in fact, is massive. Dancing base coaches. A “Man Nana” cheerleading squad and a “Banana Nana” grandma dance team. Banana throwing contests. A golden banana toss as a ceremonial first pitch. Twenty-person dizzy bat races. Players performing choreographed dances and run celebrations.

The silliness is endless as part of the organization’s Fan First approach.

“It’s something new every day,” Voorhees said. “It’s exciting every day. It’s something you haven’t seen every day. There’s never a dull moment when I’m here.”.

As soon as he began playing college baseball, Voorhees’ goal was to spend the summer playing in front of 4,000 fans every night at Historic Grayson Stadium — the same stadium where Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Jackie Robinson, Lou Gehrig and Hank Aaron took the field.

“I finally got that chance this year, and it’s amazing,” he said. “It was a dream of mine to come play here or in front of a bunch of people and I’m glad I finally got the chance to live it up.”

The baseball is pretty good, too. The Bananas are 19-5 through Saturday and have already clinched a playoff berth by winning the Coastal Plain League West Division first half.

Voorhees, a rising senior pitcher at Division II Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla., is 1-1 with a 1.88 ERA in 14 1/3 innings pitched with 13 strikeouts and one walk.

On June 25 against the Macon (Ga.) Bacon, Voorhees appeared for the first time in nearly two weeks after tweaking his back earlier this month. He pitched 1 1/3 innings, allowing one hit and one unearned run with one strikeout in the Bananas 8-1 victory.

“I felt good,” Voorhees said. “I felt a little uncomfortable because I hadn’t thrown off a mound in a week-and-a-half. I’m still getting back (from an injury). It definitely felt better than I thought it would.”

Credit: Name Test

Credit: Name Test

Credit: Name Test

Credit: Name Test

The competition in the Coastal Plain League, which features 14 teams across four states including Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, is extremely high quality and on par with other top leagues, including the Northwoods League, Voorhees said.

“This is by far the most top-notch baseball I’ve played,” he said.

Voorhees started the team’s exhibition game against the Bananas Premier Team on May 24 in their “Banana Ball” format, which is played in under two hours and includes several new rules. Batters can steal first, and if a fan catches a foul ball, it’s an out. The Premier Team toured the country this spring, playing exhibition games with “Banana Ball” rules against another professional team, the Party Animals. They’ll be featured on ESPN+ this summer.

While the sold-out Bananas home games are always a unique experience, the road games are more like typical college baseball games, Voorhees said. However, as tickets in Savannah become more and more difficult to obtain, fans are starting to show up at road games to see them. During a recent road trip to play the Lexington County (S.C.) Blowfish, the fans began chanting ‘Donut” — a popular promotion at Bananas home games that gives fans a free donut if they strike out a certain batter.

“They were doing it, and it wasn’t even a home game,” Voorhees said. “It’s a bummer because we don’t do all the same dancing and theatrics we do here, but they still love to watch us play because we always do something fun.”

Voorhees hopes he can continue to pitch well as the Bananas seek a second straight league championship before heading back to college for his senior season.

“I’m still learning the game,” Voorhees said. “Every year I learn something new or something that’s going to improve my game. Every night I’m finding ways to keep getting better.”

He’s also going to enjoy being a part of the spectacle at Bananas home games. During the game, Voorhees participated in multiple dances and ran through the stands high-fiving fans with a 10-year-old as part of their Kid of the Night competition.

The theatrics are endless and that’s what makes it great, he said. Before the game, the Bananas brought out UFC welterweight champion Jorge Masvidal as part of the ceremonial pregame manager weigh-in.

“It’s like going to a movie,” Voorhees said. “You can come to a Bananas baseball game, support a game you love, America’s pastime and have a good time doing it. That’s why I came to play here — for the fun.”

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