(June 12, 2020) The Savannah Bananas are a fun loving, outside-the-box thinking organization. Biko Skalla is a fun loving, outside-the-box thinking broadcaster. A perfect fit. An STAA member, Skalla is the Bananas new Broadcaster Entertainer.
Calling the play-by-play role Broadcast Entertainer is the first clue that things are done differently in Savannah.
“It honestly needed to be a special situation to jump ship in such uncertain times but [Bananas Owner] Jesse Cole gave me no choice but to accept,” Skalla grins. “He sold me on the culture and atmosphere he’s created down in Savannah as well as the amount of resources and immense creative freedom I will have in the booth.”
Skalla moves to Georgia after spending the past two years as a broadcast associate at MLB and NHL Network in New Jersey. Moving down the Eastern seaboard during a national pandemic poses challenges, but Skalla is undeterred.
“It’s definitely a leap going after this right now. There are a lot of moving pieces and I’m betting on myself to figure it out.”
Like the Bananas themselves, the team’s story of finding Skalla is unique. It started when STAA Owner Jon Chelesnik read a book by Bananas Owner Cole. The book included a prompt for readers to email Cole, so Chelesnik did. That introduction led to Chelesnik writing a broadcasting position description based upon what he learned about the team from Cole’s book and a conversation with Cole.
The Broadcast Entertainer position was born and Skalla was attracted to it like yellow to a banana.
“I saw the lead for the opening with the Bananas in an STAA email from the man himself, Jon Chelsnik. I applied just about as quickly as possible, got a virtual interview with the Bananas owner Jesse Cole and the rest is history,” Skalla recalls.
In the spirit of Walt Disney and PT Barnum, the Bananas are re-imagining what a baseball Webcast can look like. Anything might happen, including drone shots, microphones on on-field players and coaches and fans making strategy decisions.
“It was very clear in the job description that Jesse wanted to produce a broadcast unlike any other in baseball,” says Skalla. “That really excited me. I love baseball far more than other sport in the world, but it’s an old game with a pretty old audience. The vast majority of people I talk to think baseball is boring to watch and MLB attendance numbers have been diving for four straight years. But it just happens that the Bananas have only been around four years and they’ve sold out every game at Grayson Stadium for the last three. I see the Bananas as the future of baseball as a whole.”
Skalla continues, “Sure you probably won’t ever see the Yankees play a game in kilts for St. Patty’s Day in July, or create a dance team of elderly woman, or see how many fans they can stuff in a porta potty between innings. But the more ridiculous you can make the trip to the ballpark the more people will want to go. And now Jesse wants to channel that circus-like atmosphere of Grayson Stadium into the broadcast.”
Even the application process was typically Bananas different. “Jesse already had a wealth of innovative, wacky, and exciting ideas laid out in the job description, and he was requesting three more, along with three at-bats of fresh play-by-play filmed on a cell phone of any game that could be found online,” says Skalla. “I loved everything about the application process and the job opening itself, the endless possibilities that broadcasting for the Bananas would bring.”
Skalla made sure his “three batters of fresh play-by-play” demo reflected the excitement of Bananas baseball. “I tried to bring the energy of Grayson Stadium into my girlfriend’s basement apartment in Jamaica, Queens. It was also important to show the creativity I could bring to the table in my mini broadcast so I took chances and got weird with my calls whenever I saw the opportunity.”
When Skalla was invited to interview for the job, he says a resource provided by STAA helped him nail it. “Jon Chelesnik sent me a link to a podcast where Jesse Cole explained everything he looks for in a potential employee. It was like the ultimate review session before a final… tough to beat someone on a test when they have the answer key,” he smiles.
Skalla joined STAA in February 2019. “I found out about STAA from my friends at Syracuse University Tweeting about it.”
Two reasons prompted Skalla to join STAA. “The obvious one is the inside information about broadcasting openings. That’s worth the price in itself as I would have never known about the Bananas opening without getting the job lead from Jon,” says Skalla.
“The other big reason is the quality advice that Jon sends covering a myriad topics in broadcasting like writing cover letters, creating great teases in talk radio, looking your best in stand-ups, how to work emotional stories about players into your play-by-play, etc. It’s also just nice to have someone in your corner and that’s how I’ve felt since joining STAA.”
The end of Skalla’s demo video included a blunt statement of his desire for the job and how he thought he and Savannah would be a perfect fit.
“Luckily for me, Jesse and the rest of the Bananas agreed enough with me to give me a shot,” Skalla grins.
(Visit Biko’s STAA Talent Page).