Going 'Bananas' For Fan Engagement: Kent State Student Interns with Viral Sensation Savannah Bananas

Kent State student Anthony Scilla, '25, found himself drawn to the Savannah Bananas, fascinated by their innovative style of baseball entertainment known as "banana ball." The former amateur baseball team garnered national acclaim and amassed millions of fans and TikTok followers with its unconventional approach to the game, incorporating elements like kilts, viral choreographed dances, flaming bats and more.

As a Fan Services Intern this spring, Scilla is gaining invaluable firsthand experience, directly engaging with these millions of fans. 

“It’s fun, it’s entertaining and it’s a blast to work with,” said Scilla, a public relations major. “They took the game of baseball and made it fun again.” 

Savannah Bananas Ballpark

Scilla became more than a casual fan in 2023 when he monitored the organization online for a Media Relations class project. He made it his goal to work for the organization. 

“After a week of research, I realized even more of what they were doing, and I just fell in love with the team,” he said. 

During the team’s sold-out visit to Akron in 2023, Scilla secured a spot to watch the sold-out game from the top of a parking garage. Following the game, he joined fans and players at the team's traditional Plaza Party, engaging in autographs, photos and spirited dancing. 

“It was in that moment the thought of, ‘I need to work with this team,’ just came back,” said Scilla, as he began exploring ways to get involved.

At the end of the 2023 fall semester, Scilla aced the three-phase internship interview process. In early 2024, he joined fellow interns in Savannah, Georgia. 

Anthony Scilla

“The way they welcomed us in the office was just mind-blowing,” said Scilla, “They’re all about first impressions, and that includes first impressions for their staff. They had the entire organization, the owner, all the players, welcome us in with a parade.” 

This semester, Scilla has been juggling online classes alongside his internship. His internship duties focus on enhancing the experience of the Savannah Bananas' official fan group, the “K Club,” along with VIB (Very Important Banana) Experience tickets, which offer upgrades like early entry to the park and meet-and-greets. 

Interns

Named after the chemical symbol for potassium, the "K Club" offers members exclusive benefits, including early access to ticket purchases, priority access at games, membership to a private Facebook group and more. Scilla manages the club's email inbox, providing personalized responses to fan inquiries with playful banana-themed puns. 

"Banana fans are the best fans on Earth,” Scilla said. “I love talking to them and making sure they’re having the best time of their lives." 

On game days, Scilla actively connects with fans in the stadiums, some of whom he's built personal relationships with through the Facebook group. He ensures each fan has an unforgettable experience, whether helping them find seats or answering questions. 

“We focus so heavily on moments and creating moments,” said Scilla, recalling an encounter with a fan celebrating her retirement at a recent game in Tampa, Florida. Scilla recognized the fan from an interaction on the "K Club" Facebook group, and when he called out her name, she recognized him immediately. 

“She was just super excited to see me, and she knew who I was, and I knew who she was. We celebrated her retirement, hugged each other and it was a great moment,” he said. 

The Bananas' impact extends beyond their fans. One of the main reasons Scilla began to admire the organization is because of its nonprofit, Bananas Foster, which celebrates the foster care community. The team owners are foster parents, and the nonprofit educates and inspires others to get involved. 

“In each of the cities we go to, we reach out in advance, find a foster organization in the area to find families to celebrate, and we’ll walk the family onto the field where they get a recognition,” said Scilla, “There are hardly any dry eyes in the place afterward. That was one of the first things that really hooked me.” 

Scilla says his experience interning with the Savannah Bananas has left an impact that he knows will extend far beyond this semester of his life. 

“At one of my first games, I thought that if, for whatever reason, they fired me right now, I would not have the same mentality going back to Kent State because, after just a few games, they’ve given me so much,” said Scilla. “This has been the best possible organization to work for.” 

POSTED: Tuesday, March 19, 2024 11:50 AM
Updated: Thursday, April 4, 2024 10:44 AM
WRITTEN BY:
Eve Krejci, '24
PHOTO CREDIT:
Anthony Scilla, '25