The Young Professor is Bananas over his new full-time role

Matt Graifer split school to lead a cast of characters with the Savannah Bananas.

The Young Professor runs the show during a Savannah Bananas game. Photo courtesy of Nicole Moriarty
The Young Professor runs the show during a Savannah Bananas game. Photo courtesy of Nicole Moriarty
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Matt Graifer, aka the Young Professor, is beginning his third world tour with the Savannah Bananas.

But this year will be different. Graifer is now a full-time Banana. He quit his day job as a teacher at Matanzas High School. Now, in addition to being the host and master of ceremonies at the Savannah Banana baseball games, the Palm Coast resident is also the organization’s casting director.

The Young Professor, Matt Graifer, has found a home in Banana Land. Courtesy of Speedy Photo, LLC

That means he oversees the entire cast of characters other than the players themselves. That includes the Banana Band, the dancing umpire, the DJs, the Dad Bod Cheerleading squad and the super-popular Banana Nanas dance team.

“I'm a big part of the recruiting efforts of casting these characters and then managing them with all the travel logistics,” Graifer said. “There's a lot of moving parts in Banana Land. And now this eclectic group has someone at the helm directly, and that's me.”

You may be wondering at this point, how can I apply to be a Dad Bod Cheerleader?

“Well, there's a certain visual fulfillment that they have to present,” the Young Professor said. “Usually it's someone not particularly in shape, but not afraid to get a little weird and wild out there with us. They've got to be extremely outgoing, not afraid to make some dad jokes out there with our fans. Just mix it up, and they actually do some choreographed cheer routines. They're a hoot. They're a good time.”

A night with the Savannah Bananas is always a good time. And the Young Professor helps run the show.

Fans are bananas over Banana Ball. Their world tour began last weekend in Tampa and ends in mid-November. They travel coast to coast in venues that will include six major league ballparks. And every game is sold out.

“We have over 2 million people on the waiting list,” Graifer said. “We’re going to play in front of 1 million fans this year at all the different ball parks, so it’s a big year for us.”

Matt Graifer with temporary Savannah Banana John Cena last weekend in Tampa. Courtesy photo

Celebrities, including ex-major leaguers, make guest appearances. At Tampa, actor and pro wrestler John Cena made his Savannah Banana debut.

With all of the performers, Savannah Banana games are unique in the sports entertainment world in that they are not fixed.

“It's real athletic contests out there on the field,” Graifer said. “And in fact that means the Bananas don't always win. Last season, the Party Animals, the other team that we have, won the season. They won all three games this past weekend on opening weekend, and you know, if you’re scripting things, that's probably not how you'd write it up.”

The games look different. A lot of hotdogging, and unique rules. Eleven of them. For example, there is a two-hour time limit. Each inning is worth a point. The Bananas can outscore the Party Animals (or the Firefighters, their third team that will debut in midseason; or the Aussie Drop Bears, who debuted last year) 12-2 in one inning, but the Bananas would be awarded one point. Each inning is worth a point until the last inning when every run counts as a point, so you’re never out of it.

Instead of extra innings, there’s showdown with one pitcher vs. one hitter and one fielder. There’s no bunting. Step out of the batter’s box, that’s a strike. And perhaps the coolest rule of all: if a fan catches a ball in the stands, it’s an out.

That goes along with the name of the company, Fans First Entertainment. Last year, Graifer said, a fan caught a ball to end the game.

“That was on SportsCenter. Every news outlet had it. It was pretty incredible to see,” he said.

The Young Professor started his journey eight and half years ago with the goal of becoming a full-time sports emcee. 

“The idea of me standing up there on the mound and talking to 40,000 people and getting to perform with this group is just unbelievable,” he said. “It's a dream come true. It's more than I ever could have imagined in my wildest dreams when all this started.” 


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