FAIRFIELD, OH (March 24, 2023)—The Nuxhall Foundation and the Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Fields have officially gone Bananas!
On March 10, 2023, members of the Board of Directors for The Nuxhall Foundation and the Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Fields attended a full-day leadership retreat in Savannah, Georgia with the Savannah Bananas—the world famous baseball team that focuses on making the game fun, putting fans first, and entertaining always.
The experience was made possible by a private, anonymous donation given specifically for board member leadership development, along with contributions from the participating board members.
“Just like the Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Fields, Bananaland is home to barrier-breaking-baseball,” says Tyler Bradshaw, Executive Director of The Nuxhall Foundation. “The Savannah Bananas have completely reimagined what one of America’s greatest traditions can look like, and the unbelievable creativity and risk-taking of their team is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. We are walking away from this team experience with tanks full of energy and inspiration.”
Board members participated in a leadership retreat with Savannah Bananas leadership and team members, and were then VIB (Very Important Bananas) guests at that evening’s game at Historic Grayson Stadium.
Since their founding in 2016, the Savannah Bananas have taken the world and the game of baseball by storm, going viral in every sense of the word with their legendary and outlandish performances coupled with a dedication to creating a remarkable in-game experience for fans of all ages. The team has amassed more than 5 million followers on TikTok, more than 1 million followers on Instagram, and in 2022, the team was featured in a 5-part ESPN documentary titled Bananaland. Leaders from the Savannah Bananas were able to share this story and their improbable journey to worldwide acclaim with The Nuxhall Foundation representatives who made the trip to Georgia in a dynamic and engaging leadership retreat.
During the leadership retreat, members participated in sessions led by Savannah Bananas President Jared Orton, Marketing Director Kara Heater, Marketing Coordinator Savanah Alaniz, Director of Entertainment Zack Frongillo, Fans First Director Marie Matzinger, and Savannah Bananas Ninja Matt DeWitt. The experience was graciously organized by Bananas Executive Rock Star Tara Whiddon.
Throughout the morning retreat, Savannah Bananas leaders shared their “Fans First” approach and the organization’s continued quest to “entertain always” in new and unconventional ways. From marketing and social media techniques to organizational leadership and culture-building philosophies, staff members from the Savannah Bananas created a life-transforming educational experience for the attending board members.
Members who attended engaged in a two-way discussion about leadership, vision, and how to create a remarkable experience for fans who engage with the organization.
“The Savannah Bananas embody a forward-thinking and people-first culture that is unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” says Bradshaw. “Seeing how those values are lived out at every level of the organization, from senior leadership decisions down to individual interactions during a game, is incredibly inspiring.”
Savannah Bananas Game
At the conclusion of the leadership retreat, the board members returned to Historic Grayson Stadium to experience what many have called the most entertaining show in all of sports.
The Savannah Bananas hosted their in-stadium rivals, The Party Animals, for an epic game of Bananaball: a new baseball game created by the Savannah Bananas that has nine unique rules, including:
· A two-hour time limit,
· Batters being prevented from stepping out of the batter’s box,
· Fan participation by counting a spectator-caught foul ball as an out, and
· A unique showdown environment in the event of a tie.
Representatives from The Nuxhall Foundation and the Joe Nuxhall Miracle Fields were lucky to witness a walk-off, 3-2 win for the Savannah Bananas in the second round of a showdown, which features only a pitcher and catcher versus a batter in a “run til you score” competition.
The Savannah Bananas are in the midst of their 33-city Banana Ball World Tour Loved by Zappos.com. During the 2023 season, The Savannah Bananas will lay their unique and exciting brand of baseball to sold out crowds in 22 different states. Currently, the team has a waitlist for tickets that exceeds a half million dedicated fans.
At the conclusion of the game, the group had the chance to visit with Bananas Owner Jesse Cole, whose famous yellow tuxedo and energetic leadership approach has revolutionized the fan experience for the team he owns with his wife, Emily.
Board Members Transformed by “Fans First” Approach
Nuxhall Foundation Board Member Chad Caddell (and proud winner of the Dad Bod Dance Squad Fan Audition prior to the start of the Bananas game) said the trip transformed and energized the team of leaders who took part in the trip.
“The opportunity to do life one-on-one with the gifted, creative, and visionary leadership team of The Savannah Bananas will mark all of us forever,” says Caddell. “They are the most passionate, generous, and genuine people, who poured into us wisdom and ideas that we can implement into our mission and the people we love and serve. It was incredible to then see it all lived out in their Game Day Experience!”
“My takeaways seem endless. But what really was velcroed to my heart was the reality that at the end of the day, it’s how we make people feel that matters most. The Bananas are totally ‘we over me.’ It’s all about people. People over profit; people over programs. They aim to deliver a surprise and delightful experience. They don’t think out of the box; they get rid of the box. It’s not a baseball game, it’s an experience. And my heart pumps out of my chest to see us continue to be ‘all in’ to bring that same approach and conviction to the people we do life with at The Joy Factory, as well as the experiences we deliver.”
Prior to the trip, board members read Cole’s book Fan’s First: Change the Game, Break the Rules & Create an Unforgettable Experience. Motivated by the team’s story and unique leadership vision, Foundation leaders connected with Bananas team President Jared Orton and scheduled the leadership retreat to build team camaraderie and vision for the organization.
Upon their return to Ohio, board members met for a discussion about lessons learned and how the insights and inspiration gleaned from the experience will inform the organization’s future vision and decision making.
“I’ve never experienced anything like what I witnessed with the Savannah Bananas,” says Kim Nuxhall, volunteer President and Board Chairman of The Nuxhall Foundation. “The impact that this experience will have on our board ripples far into the future. Our athletes, families, volunteers, community partners, scholarship recipients, and community will all be better served because we are imagining new and exciting ways to promote my dad’s legacy—and gosh, Dad would’ve absolutely loved to see these guys play the game with so much fun, energy, and a fans first attitude!”
About The Nuxhall Foundation
The Nuxhall Foundation is the legacy foundation for former Major League Baseball pitcher and longtime Cincinnati Reds broadcaster, Joe Nuxhall. A central project of The Nuxhall Foundation is The Joe Nuxhall Miracle League Fields—an entirely accessible baseball and recreational facility where every player with every challenge gets every chance to play. More than 200 players between ages 4 to 79 participate in programs at the Miracle League Fields.
For more information, visit http://www.nuxhallmiracleleague.org.
For all media inquiries or to schedule an appearance, please contact: