“Fans, you know what time it is,” says public address announcer Scott Skadan.
With no further explanation, the song Peanut Butter Jelly Time rings out across the loudspeakers and an energetic man dressed in a banana suit leaps from a press box window to the delight of Augusta’s minor league baseball fans.
The man is Eric Little and the promotion, which is rarely scripted and never sponsored, has become a fan-favorite at Lake Olmstead Stadium. Little combines several popular dance moves into a medley of movement and, despite the score or any other larger promotions going on that night, for at least 60 seconds it’s Little’s show.
“There are whole groups who call up and specifically come out for Peanut Butter Jelly Time,” GreenJackets account executive Marissa Ponzi said. “The fans love it.”
Little will wrap up his fourth season with the GreenJackets this weekend as the team opens up its final series of the year tonight at Lake Olmstead Stadium. The four-game stretch will run through Labor Day with the GreenJackets playing host to the Yankees’ Single-A affiliate out of Charleston, S.C.
Little, whose official title is the team’s radio play-by-play broadcaster and media relations director, first joined the Augusta club in 2009. He’s been the voice of the GreenJackets ever since, rarely missing a game, working with members of the media and occasionally donning a banana costume.
The job is rarely glamorous, requiring 12-hour work days and road trips all over the South Atlantic League. Living out of a suitcase for half of the season can be draining and keeps him out of the spotlight, but dancing in a banana suit does the opposite. A light-hearted attempt at waking up the crowd during a rain delay several years ago has turned into one of the night’s biggest highlights off the field.
“I like it. Everybody does,” said GreenJackets fan Ron Hale, who said he’s attended games since minor league baseball returned to Augusta in 1988. “It’s a break in the middle of the game, and it’s perfect if things are a little slow or boring.”
Fans aren’t the only ones who enjoy the show. During the GreenJackets’ last homestand, Lauren Christie, the team’s director of game entertainment, said an umpire actually requested the dance.
Ponzi said Little’s entertaining demeanor on a minor league stage doesn’t stop during the day when he’s in the office.
“He’s the most passionate coworker when it comes to his job,” she said. “He’s a breath of fresh air when he’s in the office. You can tell he loves what he does.”
In a sport where entire staffs can and often do turn over annually, Little’s time in Augusta has far exceeded most other professionals in his industry. He’s worked with and under two general managers, three gameday entertainment directors, three stadium operations managers and countless interns.
Just like the minor league players on the field, Little’s goal is to move up the ladder and eventually reach the big leagues, though he hopes to use a microphone instead of a bat to get there. It’s that type of desire that will have him once again calling the final games of the season this weekend unsure if they’ll be his last in Augusta.
“The good Lord willing, I’ll be in a press box somewhere next year,” he said. “My situation here in Augusta is not full-time, and that’s something I would like to get to, whether in baseball or elsewhere. So I’ll take a few months after the season and look at my options.”
Regardless of whether he’ll be back, Little said he’s appreciative to Augusta’s baseball fans for all the memories.
“I’ve enoyed my four years in Augusta,” he said. “It’s been a wonderful time. The people in Augusta and the baseball fans here are good, quality people.”