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How The Savannah Bananas Pulled Off A Successful Season During COVID-19

FFE 122 | Pandemic Baseball


The COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t good news for the whole sports industry and even the Savannah Bananas wasn’t spared the difficulties, at least initially. How was it able to pull off a wonderful season of baseball despite the crisis? In this episode, Jared Orton shares in detail how the Bananas went to a process of adapting to the situation to be able to deliver on their mission of putting fans first and entertaining always. It was a season that was full of stress, tears, fun, joy, and happiness, anxiety, and everything else. At the end of the day, the Bananas did it when nobody else believed they could. How do you think the next seasons will look like for the team? You be the judge.

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How The Savannah Bananas Pulled Off A Successful Season During COVID-19

Welcome to another episode of the show as we go on this journey of giving you, the readers, a front-row seat to the life and times of our business. The last episode was fun, sharing the vision for where we’re going in the next several years. If you haven’t read that one, go back and read it. It was me, laying it out for you like, “Here’s where this thing is going.” We’ve been here for the past years, so we’re trying to figure out where are we going over the next years. There are going to be a lot of future talks as these episodes continued to come out. The last episode was like, “Where are we going?” The future episodes as we go along are going to be like, “How are we getting there, the decisions that we’re making, the announcements that we’re putting out there, the movement and the execution of achieving this vision over the next years?”

In this episode, we’re going in the past and give you the whole story of how we played, survived and thrived during this pandemic of the Coronavirus. If you think about all the existential threats to your business, I don’t think we would have ever thought in a million years that nobody can get together at all for a live event and that’s going to be what threatens our business. We think about going irrelevant, fans not caring about us anymore, competition coming into our community and a million other things, but when would we ever think for an entire time period, nobody can get together? People are extremely limited. People won’t come out of their homes. People won’t go on vacation. Nobody is doing anything. That was never a thought to us. We encountered that for the first time in all of our young lives and our business careers. There were stress, anxiety, tears, emotions and many things that went into this.

Now, our business as on the other side of it from our perspective, we’re proud of the effort we put into it and what we were able to do for our fans. I want to walk you through that whole process and what it took and how we got creative. Hopefully, there are some takeaways as well for people on things that they can continue to try and implement as other people and other businesses continued to be impacted by this pandemic that’s continuing to go on. As we finished the 2019 season in August, as we were ramping up for 2020, we’re going into our fifth season. I’m not bragging about what we were doing, but we were firing on all cylinders. Things were pumping. We were excited. We had entertainment plans. We had all of these new touchpoint ideas, fan experiences and we were going to make this ad-free announcement.

There was so much momentum and velocity as we were going towards the 2020 season. All off-season, we’re working, we’re grinding, we’re thinking, we’re talking about new ideas and experiments. We’re talking about how we’re going to turn this ballpark into a place where people can move around, have different experiences and meet and greet with different characters. All of these are best-laid plans. We then get to December, January and we are on-pace at that point to sell out 100,000 of our tickets, the entire season, before the opening day, which we had never done in the previous four seasons.

It is a rapid pace. Everyone is excited. As we all know, Coronavirus sits in late February and early March 2020. We just had gotten back from Disney. We had taken our entire team to Disney World. It was amazing. Everyone brought a guest and we were even more fired up because we had seen all these Disney experiences and how they create this amazing nostalgic park experience and how their level of hospitality is world-class. There are many amazing things. We were like, “We can bring back the Disney World experience that we had and bring that back to Grayson Stadium. Grayson Stadium can be our Disney World for our fans.” We were bringing all these ideas back. We’re getting back into the office and into the swing of things. Right around March 2020, we’re less than three months away from opening day. It was time to get moving.

If you’ve ever been to Savannah or ever heard anything about Savannah, you’ve probably heard about the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. I remember leading up to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the middle of March. The mayor, the council, the parade committee and the business community came down to it and they said, “This Coronavirus thing has started to pick up.” We don’t know a ton about it, but some health concerns are coming about. Somewhere around one million people come to Savannah to experience the St. Patrick’s Day festivities and parade and all that.

They made the decision, “This doesn’t make sense. We need to cancel the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.” Our community was in a massive shock. That is a huge decision that has to be made. There is so much infrastructure, planning, revenue, tax revenue, hotel and motel that have to go into that. When a city and a community has to cancel that, it’s a wake-up call. This is pretty serious. I remember being with our staff here and we did a fun St. Patrick’s Day Parade by ourselves around the field or something. We got to go with leadership with myself, Jesse and Emily. At that point, we were basically like, “Let’s go ahead and send people home and start doing a work from the home deal.” It seems like this is getting serious. We don’t want to continue to try to push the envelope with this. It doesn’t make sense. We’re capable of working from home. Let’s go ahead and start working from home.”

I don’t think we knew what that meant. It was like, “We should not work in the office. This probably doesn’t make sense for us to be working in the office together.” We went home and we started working from home that following week. The restrictions, the orders and the mandates, all of a sudden we’re like, “Don’t leave your house. Nobody can go outside.” Businesses are closing down. Restaurants, the gyms, the movie theaters were all closing down. Every customer-facing business here in the community, nationwide and worldwide, is shutting down.

At that point, it starts to get real where it’s like, “This is more than just we’re going to work from home for the weekend and see what happens and then we’ll be back doing our thing in a week or so.” This seems to be indefinite and that was scary from a leadership perspective because we’re always working towards something. We felt at that moment that everything that we’ve been working towards for the past several months is put on hold. To give you an example, from January to April, we do a big campaign. It’s a waiting list campaign. I’ve talked about it before, but if you read the book, Oversubscribed, by Daniel Priestley, he writes about this whole campaign strategy for developing a waiting list for your customers and building demand, hype, and excitement for a product launch. It sells out immediately because of the number of people who are demanding it, the number of people that are on your waiting list, clamoring for this product.

FFE 122 | Pandemic Baseball
Pandemic Baseball: We knew in our heart of hearts that we couldn’t do all those things that we know that would provide pandemic relief, but in our DNA is to provide joy, happiness, excitement, and fun for our fans.


It’s why Apple does what they do. It’s why Jordan shoes do what they do. It’s why your favorite restaurant down the street is booked up for the next three months because of the experience they provide. We had been campaigning hard for January, February and March 2020. We were going to put all of our remaining tickets on sale on April 1st. Imagine we’re working from home thinking, “Everything’s still on schedule. We’re still going as planned.” About a week into it, we realized, “Is it the right move to put something on sale now? This doesn’t seem right. This doesn’t seem the thing we’re supposed to do.”

That was our first big decision like, “Are we going to put our tickets on sale?” We’re a couple of weeks into it and things are starting to get questionable. At this point, March Madness had been canceled and other sporting events have been canceled, then Major League Baseball starts postponing their things. Things are starting to not happen. I know you remember all of that. We had to make the decision, “We’re not going to put tickets on sale for the rest of our season.”

There are 4,000 or 5,000 people on this list that are waiting for tickets. We were like, “We’re not going to put tickets on sale. We’re not going to talk anything about new merchandise items and selling anything.” As a business owner or a business leader, we’re not going to do any revenue for the foreseeable future and we don’t know like, “Is the season going to play? Are we going to play? Is it going to happen? What are we doing? What is the future of this thing?” All that to be said, we lost everything that we were working towards. As a larger business opportunity, that’s something to talk about in the future like, “Do your people know what you’re working towards?”

Even in this pandemic, if you haven’t been able to open up or if your business hasn’t returned, we’ve talked to people who lost 95% of their revenue and lost 95% of their monthly income. We’ve talked to some destroyed businesses. Do your people, does your team, do you know what you’re working towards, even in this season when there might not be the product that you’re putting out on a daily basis, people consuming it? We had to get some introspection on how do we make sure that our team is still fired up to “go to work” everyday or work from home? How do we make sure that they know what they’re working towards? What are they working towards? What are we doing for our fans? What do our fans and customers need from us at this moment? Who are we to our fans? Who are we to the community? Who are we to people who don’t know us? Who are we on social media?

Back To The Whiteboard

We’re trying to answer all these questions. These are powerful questions to answer, in general, but the pandemic made us dive deep on ourselves and figure these things out immediately. There was a time early on where we were like, “We need to be the heroes. We need to be the ones that save the day. We need to host a restaurant drive, a food drive, or a party to bring people together and make sure our vendors are taken care of. We were trying to come up with all these ideas. What we realized was we’re not good at any of those. That’s not our business. We can’t provide medical supplies. We can’t provide masks. People aren’t getting together. It doesn’t make sense to try to do the whole take out in your community, do the drive-through thing, and provide gift cards to people. None of that made sense for the Savannah Bananas to do.

I believe all those are good things. The people who did them are admirable that they were able to pull those things off, but it’s because that was in their lane and they were good at those things. For us, we were not good at any of those ideas. What we finally realized in front of us, that it’s almost embarrassing that we didn’t come to it sooner, but we didn’t recognize who we are. It’s in our DNA and in the name of our company, Fans First Entertainment. It’s our mission, “Fans First, Entertain Always.” We’re an entertainment company. We knew in our heart of hearts that we couldn’t do all those things that we know that would provide pandemic relief, but in our DNA is to provide joy, happiness, excitement and fun for our fans.

I distinctly remember one of our calls with our team. We told everybody, “Your job might be in ticket sales experience, in merchandise, on the video team, in marketing or on recruiting and hiring team, but suspend that job title for the foreseeable future. You are an entertainer. You are a performer. You are going to be customer-facing and we’re going to have fun with our fans.” We started workshopping ideas, like, “What does this mean?” Straight up, we’ll rip the marketing book, the policies and the brand guidelines up.” We started whiteboarding tons of ideas. Unfortunately, it had to be on social media for the most part, but what can we do? How do we send fun to our fans in a way that is still is the Bananas, but does something for them that they can’t get anywhere else?

If you think about how much negativity was coming out of the media and on the general population at that time, we thought we had a great opportunity to provide reprieve for people during these difficult times. We started having our staff do Facebook Live cooking shows in their homes with their spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, roommates or whatever it might be. People cooking on social media live for our fans and people are commenting, “What’s this recipe like? This is my favorite way to cook Shepherd’s Pie. This is my favorite way to grill hamburgers.”

I remember Jonathan did a cocktail tasting and he’s mixing up cocktails for fans and having a happy hour for people. Our PA announcer, Shark, was doing music trivia on Tuesday nights, Facebook Live. There are 400, 500, 600 comments, hundreds of people watching as an escape to get out of their normal day-to-day lives that were being crushed by this entirely negative culture that had been created around this pandemic. There is so much sadness, anger, frustration, and unknown and many times, we would go back and look at those comments and people would say, “I needed this now. This was the fun that I needed in my timeline. This was the two–minute video that I needed to see.”

We started realizing at that moment, “This is who we are. This is what we can provide to our fans. This is the positive impact that we can have on people.” It was simple as I look back at it, but it was hard to figure out at that moment, who are we to our fans? Who are we to our customers? What do they need from us now? Ask that question of yourself, not just pandemic related, but in general, who are you to these people and who do you want to be known for? What do you want to be known for as a business or a person to your customers?

Ask yourself, 'Who are you to your customers?' 'What do you want to be known for?' Click To Tweet

The other thing that we realized in that was our brand can only be so heartfelt and warming to people because we’re just a brand, a logo, a company, and a social media account. At some point, there’s a coldness to that. You can do the most heartfelt video, the nicest hyperreal, or a thank you message, but we wanted to use our people because they respond to people. We were placed and created on this Earth to do life and relationships with people. We made a huge emphasis to put our people on the front burner and get them in front of our fans and build that face-to-face connection, that human connection with people because we feel that it is powerful, especially in business. People do business with people.

From the team and the employee side, that’s all fine and dandy, but at the end of the day, people still need to know what they’re working towards and what they’re working for. We put an emphasis on growth and development during this time. We read three cool outlandish, fun books. We read a book about Southwest Airlines, who is an amazing company. We read a book about Virgin Mobile and Richard Branson, who was just a character. That book was interesting. We read a book about a Scottish Brewdog and the title of the book is Business for Punks. It is a counter-cultural company that is doing ridiculous things. We read three of these books as a team together and then had weekly chats like, “What are we taking away from this? What can we apply to our company? How can we do this for our fans? How can we do this for our business? How can we do this for our team? We had a specific growth mindset during this time and then we listened to a couple of podcasts together.

We’re always trying to make notes on improvement on how we could bring the team together, how we could connect with each other, and how the team could grow. I read a stat that people were having more meetings during the pandemic and the work from home because people felt like they were supposed to check-in and people were spending more time on their screen in chat rooms instead of doing meaningful inspiring work. We got a little heavy on that and I don’t know how to combat that. It did feel, at some point, we were having Zoom calls or free conference calls for the sake of having them. Looking back, that wasn’t as exciting for people as it could have been for them to do meaningful work and have things to work on. Continuing on that as the leaders, we have a fiduciary responsibility to our team and we made it clear upfront. We will do everything possible, every financial thing in our repertoire to save this company. The last thing we’re going to do is let people go and furlough. We’re not going to be asking people to take cuts. We will do every single thing within our willpower to save this company.

Keeping The Ball Alive

We were fortunate to have some amazing vendors that worked with us. I’ll never forget getting on the phone and dialing up all of our monthly bills and asking people to cut us some slack and give us three months and cut our bill in half. There were many vendors that were willing to do that for us, but we made it clear to our team, “We don’t know the future. We don’t know the answers. We don’t know if we’re going to play now. We don’t know if we’re going to have any money at the end of the month but know that we’re going to do every single thing in our power to make this thing happen. We will update you along the way to make sure that you feel like you have all the information, but we’re only going to give you as much as we possibly know as well. We had to make that abundantly clear. We’re going to do everything in our power to make sure that this company is saved and that people aren’t let go. “You are our first priority here.”

In the second round, we were able to get the PPP loan. Our first round, it got denied for whatever reason. I know there was some back and forth on why people missed out on the money, but on that first round, we missed out on the first round of PPP. You want to talk about an absolute blow to your insides. I felt like we had let everyone down. Everyone’s depending on us to make payroll this month, to make sure we’re fine and to make sure we can get to the season. Getting that call or that email saying, “It’s not going to happen,” was mortifying, frustrating and saddening.

I remember going home that night talking to Kelsey, my wife, and tears started flowing out, “Are we going to make it? Is this thing going to survive?” I’m even getting choked up talking about it. I’m like, “Why is this all happening? Why is all this coming to an end? Why are many bad things happening?” I didn’t have all the answers to that point, but I kept saying, “We’re going to figure it out. We’re going to make this thing happen. If we can figure out what we can do to serve our fans, we’re going to make this thing happen.”

Fortunately, we got the second round to get us up to opening day. If anybody else got this, you know that PPP loan was an absolute lifeline for small businesses to be able to get through a couple of months of no revenue, no fans, no customers and no business to get to a point where potentially where we could have some revenue come in. It got into mid-April and close to May and at that point, we realized with our league that this season was going to happen, but not in any shape or form, like we thought it was going to happen.

We announced in late April that we were going to push the season back to July. We’re going to start the season a month later than usual and that we were going to be no more than 50% capacity. We had come to the stadium, mapping things out, and we were walking through. That’s the time when you started seeing social distancing and spread people out, and if you’re going to have people together, they need to be six feet apart. We walked through the entire stadium and went row by row and seat by seat and counted like, “This is the max number of people that we’ll be able to welcome in this ballpark in 2020.” Looking at the numbers and seeing that, we’re like, “We’ve already sold almost 100% of our tickets. We’re going to have to get on the phone and tell a lot of people, ‘You can’t come to a game this 2020,’ or we’re going to have a lot fewer people at these games in 2020.”

It’s going to be intense to try to plan all these things out. On April 29th or May 1st, we announced, “Season’s getting pushed back with limited capacity. No more than 50% of the tickets are going to be sold. It’s going to be spaced out and we’re going to put our best effort into making this season happen.” We’re going to delay this season. We’re going to do fans. At that point is when our State in Georgia started opening things back up and people were able to go back to work. The masks, social distancing, and the guidelines started being rolled out after they got a grasp from the CDC and the state health department. We felt like, we’ve got all of May, June, and then we get to July, we’re going to be in the clear. It’s going to be great. Our staff and interns came back the next week or so. We’re ready to go. We’re gearing back up for July 1st and it is time to go. We’ve got two months and we’ve got to put all these restrictions into play.

FFE 122 | Pandemic Baseball
Pandemic Baseball: This season allowed the Bananas to experiment in ways that they have never experimented with before.


We started getting the guidelines handed down to us from the state health department. We started getting in with our league on how we’re going to do those guidelines and how we’re going to put things together. We’re crafting what 2020 season is going to look like. I remember getting together with our league and writing out three pages of bullet points on how we were going to be able to do the season. Everything from staffing to our players, our food service, restrooms, cleanliness and to all the equipment that we were going to have to get in extra and all the cleaning supplies and sanitation stuff and all the signs that were going to be posted. There are many details that we’re going to be handed down, but for us, if you tell us, “Here are the rules. Here are the guidelines.”

If they told us we could only have 25 people, we will have 25 people. If they told us 25,000, we’d have 25,000, but if you give us the guidelines, we have this attitude of like, “We’re going to make it work. We’re going to put these things in play.” We started working every single day, “Here’s what we need from the city. We’ve got to get masks ordered. We’ve got to get all these things put in play to make sure that if we do this, we do it safely. We do it by the book. We do it by how people are telling us to.” We got to all that and presented it to the state health department and got the thumbs up. We had multiple calls going through all the details on how we were anticipating doing things, how we were going to spread people out, and the number of people that were going to come in the ballpark.

It was such a relief to hear from the health department because we’re an outside venue and we’re going to have many spaces to spread out. People won’t be inside talking directly to each other in a close environment that we had a great chance to have a season this summer with about a thousand people. I remember sharing that with our team, the refreshment and the knowledge that like, “We’re not out of the woods yet. We’re not out of the weeds on this thing, but we’ve got the thumbs up that we can pull this off. We can bring people together and we can give people a modified Bananas experience.”

What that turned into, and this is where I want to finish up part of this is that it turned into a culture of experimentation. Jesse has mentioned this before. We felt at that point, if any season allowed us to do anything crazy, this would be the season that allowed us to experiment in ways that we have never experimented with before. Most businesses are like this as well. Typically, you get into your rut, you get into your groove where it’s like, “Come in, do your thing, serve the customers, put the money in the bank and pay your expenses, and go home.” What this allowed us to do is challenge ourselves on how are we going to do things differently? What experiences are we going to provide? What experiments are we going to try? How can we be testing things on a daily basis?

A Season Of Experiments

One of the big things that we put into play in 2019 was out of necessity because we knew that we’re going to have 75,000 fewer fans than a normal season. There’s going to be 75,000 people that can’t come to a Bananas game 2020. How can we serve them in a way that still provides that Bananas experience for them? How can we send that Bananas experience to them if they can’t come to a game this summer? We were tinkering with all these weird ideas like Bananas in a Box and Bananas Summer Camp. What can we send them? Could people play a Bananas game in their backyard and have cards, rules, and videos associated with it, all these ridiculous ideas. What we settled on was, “Let’s bring a dramatically different streaming experience to our fan base. Let’s bring a digital experience to our fans that they can take anywhere with them and that they can feel like they’re seeing something that they can’t see anywhere else, especially on TV.”

We went all-in on creating this subscription model through Facebook, where we could serve our fans a live game on the internet, but also have this community of fans, this tribe of fans that continues to get their most exclusive, high-end premium content that they cannot get anywhere else that we would do for no one else. We talked about like, “We’re going to put microphones on players. We’re going to have drones. We’re going to be able to vote on things during the game. We might even let you come on screen and vote for who’s going to come in the ninth inning to pitch. We allowed our broadcaster to go down from the press box and go on to the field, sit in the stands and broadcast and even become a part of the game.”

There are many ridiculous things that we were able to do in the subscription model. We would have never tried that if we would have had a regular season. We launched this subscription model, all of a sudden, 100, 200, 500 people signed up, ended up having 800 of our core diehard, big believer fans signed up for Bananas Insiders and build this community of people who enjoyed virtually hanging out with each other. Our broadcaster, Biko, became this character of these among the fans type of guy. He drank a beer on the broadcast one night and people are bringing him gifts like cookies, T-shirts, and caricatures. This test that we put into play, we have never have done. We got forced to by the pandemic.

We learned so much about building a community, building a subscription model. In the future, what that is going to allow us to do is potentially build an app, a website or something where all of our fans can congregate and have social media feeds, message boards and community building. To merchandise in their tickets and experiences, and the premium content and the streaming, all in one service, and all in one site. I’m excited to think about that because we’ve got to test it and try it during the season, our food and beverage people were asking themselves every single day, “Is this the best way to serve food?” We implemented a mobile ordering this 2020. That is something we had never tried before, but we knew that people aren’t going to want to get out of their seats and wait in line with a bunch of people.

Could we try mobile ordering? Could we try a different way to service our fans that way? How do we start cutting down on the waste of our foodservice? We were asking ourselves questions every single night. We were playing Bingo at the top deck. We were doing many different games and music experiences. We had a DJ that would move around the park, start the front Plaza and then go to the first base side. We had live music at the top deck that would start up there and then come down to the concourse. Every single night, we were asking our staff to test and try something. This is the time to do it. With our merchandise store, we can’t have people cramming into our merchandise store.

Now is the time to try new things for your customers and serve people in a different and better way. Click To Tweet

Lizzy and Jonathan built an exterior merchandise popup store with a nice tent, wooden baskets, tables and displays. That merchandise store did an extra 10% to 20% revenue every single night, in addition to what we normally expect from our regular merchandise store. It was a simple test that we were forced to do because people can’t be standing next to each other all the time waiting in line inside a merchandise store and stuff. The whole concept of this is that don’t let a pandemic, a negative situation, don’t sit there and say, “Woe is me. This is the way it’s got to be.” Allow it to challenge your operation and take advantage of new opportunities that you can test. Try and do new things and experiment and tell your team, “Think of a better way. Think of something different.”

I guarantee, if you put out 5, 8, 10, 12, 15, 20 experiments, you’re going to find 1 or 2 like a Bananas Insider subscription model that we had, mobile ordering, and a new merchandise revenue tent. You’re going to find 2 or 3 good ideas that you’re going to keep, not just pandemic proof, but they’ll work no matter what. You’ll take your business when everything starts coming back to normal. This is the time to reinvent, try new things for your customers and serve people in a different and better way. When everything then comes back and the economy is functioning properly and we can get back together and there are not as many restrictions, that test and experiment are going to multiply quickly and exponentially for the growth of that business.

When we go to Bananas Insiders in 2021, I can’t wait to figure out the new things that we can provide to those people and see how much anticipation there is for streaming live, more engagement and Biko, our broadcasters are coming up with more ways to engage that community. I can’t wait to see what the merchandise does with a full crowd, knowing that it was contributing 10% to 20% of our overall revenue during a night. I can’t wait to see what mobile ordering throughout the park does. I can’t wait to see what all this contactless and ordering on your phone and different delivery options. I can’t wait to see how we apply that to our ballpark and make it a better experience for our fans. The culture of experimentation is crucial because we can all sit around and say, “I hope it gets back to normal,” but what if it doesn’t?

What if it does, but you’ve experimented many times with many different ideas that you are the one that’s winning because you’re the one who said, “I’m going to change, adapt, move quickly and do it in the name of a better experience for my customers and give my customers and fans something that they can’t get anywhere else.” That was what motivated me to come out of the pandemic. We’re not out of it yet. We don’t know is next season going to happen at full capacity? Who knows? Are we going to be able to completely serve a full house the exact way we used to serve them? I’ll make my bet and say, “Our team is going to still be willing to grow, to learn and to experiment on a daily basis so that every single time something tries a pivot against us, we’re ready to make a move and do something that can move the business forward.”

That’s a snapshot of how we put together this operation during the pandemic. As we got into the season, things were extremely challenging. Do people feel safe? Do they not feel safe? Do people feel like we’re doing everything to the best of our ability? Do people understand why they’re being asked to wear a mask? Do people understand what it’s going to be like when they come to the ballpark in 2020? We had to do so much upfront on the customer-facing side. The switch that we made that I feel made the biggest difference for our fan base and for the people coming to the games was that we needed to remind them that we were all on the same page. This was not us trying to implement some policies to restrict their freedom. This was not us coming up with some convoluted idea that we’re going to make up these rules and make up these things.

We’re coming at you asking, “If you want to come to a Bananas game, if this is what it takes to go to a Bananas game, are you willing to partner with us and get a little bit uncomfortable, change the way you sit at the ballpark, change the way that you wait in line, change the way that you come in? Are you willing to wear a mask? Are you willing to get your temperature taken out in the front? Are you willing to go all through all these things with us so that we can have a Bananas season?” When we made that switch in language to people, we found that people were thankful and appreciative that they were willing to get on our team. They were willing to do the mask, get their temperature taken, wait in line a little bit longer and to spread out in the seats a little bit.

Were there challenges? One hundred percent because we’re dealing with human behavior. We’re dealing with asking people to do things they’ve never done before in their life. We’ve got pictures that were sent to us like, “You guys aren’t following the rules.” At that moment, when there are 500 people sitting down eating and drinking, yes, they don’t have their mask on because they’re eating and drinking. By and large, as the season went on and we constantly asked people, “Do you mind putting your mask on? Do you guys mind separating a little bit? Can we seat people up here where there’s nobody sitting at?” At the end of the season, you can look at the results. People were safe here. People were happy here. People enjoyed themselves. They’ve got a chance to do something that was taken away. People didn’t go on vacation, summer trips, pool parties and summer picnics. They had none of that.

Thankfully, we were able to have the guidelines and the rules to go by that we could do something and put it into play and have Bananas fans show up to the ballpark in 2020. Was it different? One hundred percent. Was the entertainment experience the same? Not at all. Did we have a little bit of the entertainment experience? I think we had a ton of entertainment experience, but it was different. It was not as much interaction with the fans. There was not as much crowd, one-on-one type stuff, but overall the entertainment was powerful for people. People laughed, danced, and had fun. We had families come from all over the country to come to one game.

I remember Jesse saying that he met a family from Utah who drove 48 hours across the country, came to Savannah, came to a game that night, stayed at the hotel, left the next day and went back home because they were wanting to come and be a part of a Bananas experience. We look back at that and we were thankful to celebrate every single night that we were able to do it one more time. We were able to have one more Bananas game. We knew that any slip up was going to cause us to be able to not do anything for our fans. It would be shut down and nothing was going to be able to happen, but night after night, people kept coming.

FFE 122 | Pandemic Baseball
Pandemic Baseball: The culture of experimentation is crucial because we can all sit around and say, “I hope it gets back to normal,” but what if it doesn’t?


Our staff worked their butts off in making sure that everything that we said we were going to do, we put into play. Our fans were manageable and were able to work with us that it became a team effort that we can do this safely, we can do this in a fun way and we can do this in a way that brings people together that nobody else is able to do now. That’s how Coronavirus Baseball Bananas season went. It was full of stress, tears, fun, joy and happiness, anxiety and everything else. I remember crying in the beginning and getting emotional in the end when I told our staff, “We did it when nobody else said we could. We had a lot of fun doing that.”

That’s it for the Coronavirus episode. There are more details than you could ever imagine that we could go into, but that’s the wrap for the 2020 season. I’ll go back to some other things that happened in the 2020 season at some point, but as we talk about it, we want to keep moving forward. You’re going on this journey with us and having a front seat to where our business is going in the future? As always, if you have questions or want to get in contact with us, you can always find us online. You can find us on social media. You can find us on our website. You can always call, text or email us. You can get in touch with us about any way you want to. We would love to hear your thoughts on this episode. Thank you and we’ll talk to you soon.

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Jared Orton

Jared Orton

Because of a relentless focus on entertainment and ticket sales, the Royals were fortunate to see tremendous growth in attendance and revenue during the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Jared is now taking those experiences, along with the experiences of Fans First Entertainment, to develop a value-packed, non-stop, entertainment experience for Savannah fans. Jared currently lives in Savannah with his wife, Kelsey.
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1401 E. Victory Drive
Savannah, GA 31404


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