DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The Savannah Bananas touring baseball team came to town Thursday night, and they came with star power. Johnny Damon, 18-year MLB superstar, played with the Bananas in front of a sold out Jackie Robinson Ballpark crowd.
The Bananas are known for a zany variation on the traditional baseball rules designed to maximize entertainment; such variations include automatic ejections for bunts, eclectic minigames in the event of a walk or a wild pitch, and an entirely different scoring system than the MLB's. They also do elaborate choreographed dances in the midst of play. Known as 'Banana Ball', the show the team puts on has made them the most famous American baseball team outside the major leagues.
As opposed to traditional home and away games the Bananas take their traveling circus on tour, this time swinging by The Jack, home of the Daytona Tortugas. Tickets were nigh-impossible to come by, and the on-field product delivered in spades.
Johnny Damon's playing career lasted from 1995 to 2012, with the Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, Tampa Bay Rays, and Cleveland Guardians. He amassed over 2,700 career hits with a stellar .284 batting average in those years. Still, with Damon out of baseball for eleven years running, fans likely wondered whether he'd have his same swagger appearing with the bananas.
The 49 year-old Damon, looking more like a season-ticket-holder than a former slugger, stepped up to bat with a sort of hip-dance to hype up the crowd. He took a mighty hack at the first pitch, sufficiently graceful to suggest he'd likely held a baseball bat before. He missed it entirely. On the second pitch he swung again and grounded out meagerly to third.
That being said, Damon was not in Daytona to broadcast his MLB comeback. He was there to have fun, which, as he may have learned on the 1998 Royals, can sometimes be the best baseball has to offer. Damon was clearly having the best time he'd had on a diamond since his playing career wrapped up, and the fans were loving every second of it.
After the Bananas peel out, Jackie Robinson Ballpark will begin preparing for the Tortugas' home opener, happening April 11th against the Palm Beach Cardinals. Tickets are available on the team website.
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