The story behind MSU's rally banana

The Mississippi State baseball team has embraced the rally banana.
Staff Writer

Mississippi State has long been associated with cowbells.

No matter the sport, Bulldog fans ring their bells in support. Yet as MSU gets ready to start play in the College World Series Saturday night, it’s not the cowbell that has become the rallying symbol for these Bulldogs.

Instead, it’s a piece of produce.

Ushered in by third baseman Jordan Westburg’s dugout antics during the Tallahassee Regional, the rally banana has become synonymous with this year’s MSU postseason run.

“I was pitching when it started,” Mississippi State’s Cole Gordon recalled. “Apparently Jordan was hungry, so he got a banana, then he got another one and started playing with it and messing around. He used it as a radar gun. He put sunscreen on it and bug spray at one point. I think last game, it was at the spa, so it had a towel and was able to relax the whole game. We’ve just kind of used it for a lot of things. kept it funny and kept it loose.”

Others have taken notice. Westburg’s banana shenanigans have been captured by television broadcasts. The Mississippi State marketing department distributed toy rally bananas to fans during the super regional at Vanderbilt.

Starkville retailer Maroon & Co. put rally banana T-shirts up for sale online earlier this week. They quickly sold out before becoming available yet again.

“The fans have really taken it to a new level,” Gordon said. “It’s funny to watch. It’s cool for Jordan. He started something that you really don’t think is going to be that big and it has taken off.”

Perhaps surprisingly, one of the rally banana’s biggest fans is Mississippi State interim head coach Gary Henderson. One might could label Henderson as old school with his three decades of coaching experience. Yet even an older dog has learned to embrace the power of MSU’s new favorite fruit.

“I’m glad that the kids are having a good time,” Henderson said. “I want them to be loose. I want them to be confident. I want them to play on the edge. I want them to like being in the dugout. All of those things come into play.

“Any kid that has ever been with me in my programs for the last 20 or 25 years has heard that if there is something funny, then you laugh. That’s a staple of whatever program I’m involved in. That just speaks to you have to be able to have a sense of humor if you’re playing baseball and you’re in the dugout. You have to. While a banana may not directly impact humor, it speaks to the fact that you want your kids loose and enjoying the environment.”

It’s hard to argue the success the banana has brought the Bulldogs. Since Westburg introduced it, MSU roared back to win the Tallahassee Regional and then topped Vanderbilt on the road in the super regional to advance to the College World Series. That surely means there will be plenty of bananas in MSU’s dugout in Omaha this weekend right?

“I think it’s really the quality of the banana as opposed to the number of them,” Henderson quipped.

In an odd season for Mississippi State baseball that has seen the Bulldogs lose a head coach, spend much of the year on the road and fight back from a losing record entering April, why shouldn’t a banana randomly become a new MSU fixture?

No one could have predicted it. Then again, no one could have predicted the Bulldogs to be in their current spot to begin with.

So expect to see plenty of bananas this weekend in Omaha, and perhaps as the banana fun takes place, the time will be ripe for MSU to claim its first-ever national title.

“I think it’s special,” Gordon said of the bananas. “Every team has their thing, or quirk, that gets you going.
“It keeps us loose, keeps us excited and gives us a reason to laugh in the dugout.”