On the Road: Social Donut and Intimate Sausage in Lynchburg

To see all posts from my June 27, 2015 visit to the Lynchburg Hillcats (this is Part Two) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my June 2015 trip through the Virginias, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

This is Jimmy “Salad Bar” Wright, pointing to a much younger version of himself. Jimmy served as the bat boy for the 1983 Carolina League champion Lynchburg Mets, a formidable squad that included Doc Gooden, Lenny Dykstra (who stole 105 bases) and, never forget, Jeff Bettendorf.

025Salad Bar — read all about how he got the name HERE — gave up his bat boy duties long ago. These days, he’s the concourse grill master at the Lynchburg Hillcats home of Calvin Falwell Field.

Here are the items he grills up on a nightly basis; salad is not part of Salad Bar’s repertoire:

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Clearly, my designated eater for the evening — you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark specialties that my gluten-free diet prohibits — would have to sample some of Salad Bar’s salad-free specialties. He suggested the “Aloha Donut Chicken Sandwich” (topped with bacon and pineapple) and “The Smoke” (sausage topped with fried jalapenos and fried cherry peppers). And so it was.

It’s fitting that the Aloha Donut Chicken Sandwich has a prominent ma-hole-o.

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The Smoke Sausage, meanwhile, would like to wish you a merry crisp-ness.

027My designated eater for the evening was to be the wife-husband duo of Judi Muir and David Freier. There was just one problem, however. When it came time to meet with these individuals, the tarp was on the field and the rain was pouring down. So what to do? And where to go?

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It was eventually suggested that we set up shop in a concourse storage room. The same room, in fact, where the previously highlighted picture of the 1983 club proudly hangs. And. hey, the more the merrier! Judi and David are part of a boisterous Lynchburg rooting section that has dubbed themselves the “Litterbox,” all of whom sought refuge with us in our storage room-turned-dining hall.

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In the above photo, David and Judi are flanked left to right by Litterboxers Steve Horeczko, Matt Lohmeyer, Amanda Bowling, Lauren Liwen, Matt Liwen, Mike Our and Christine Rudy. Laura is pregnant (with a lil’ Litterboxer?) so it’s only proper that she got the seat of honor while the others stood or kneeled.

David and Judi, who moved to Lynchburg in 2003, both teach biology at Lynchburg College. They met in 1988 at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, got engaged in 1994 and, finally, got married (on a whim, in a hot air balloon) in 2005. (Just for the fun of saying it, I wish they had then decided to go by the hyphenated surname of Muir-Freier). The Liwens are former students of David and Judi, and now refer to them as “life advisors.”

Minor League Baseball has been a constant in the lives of of the Muir-Freiers, with Judi reporting that they attend about half of the Hillcats games and also travel frequently to other stadiums in the area. Otherwise, she said, “we stay home with our four cats.”

I wish I had been able to see “The Litterbox” in action during the game, as they were equipped with a variety of (literal) bells and whistles.

034If you want the scoop on the Litterbox’s plethora of ballpark chants, rituals and in-jokes, then please consult this handy t-shirt (dating back to the team’s Pirates 1995-2009 Pirates affiliation).

shirt1

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But, anyway, we were here to talk about food. Have at it, Muir-Freiers.

David then started in on the Aloha Donut Chicken Burger.

030“The sweetness of the pineapple with the barbecue sauce blends together well,” said David. “The donut, there’s no sweetness, it’s like a well-made bun. It melts in your mouth. It’s not like a doughy cake donut.”

David then passed this creation down the line, with each Litterbox member taking a bite (clearly, they’re a tight-knit bunch). All gave it high marks.

“The Smoke,” charred to a deep-black, generated no small amount of skepticism. In an email, Judi later mentioned that it looked like “something you would see in a Bones episode.”

032“It needs more condiments,” was Judi’s first impression. “It’s a good sausage. There are supposedly hot peppers, but I haven’t hit them yet. I think I’d have the sweet [sausage] again, over this.”

While Judi wasn’t too enamored with the smoke, she is enamored with her husband. David wanted to give it a try, and this is what resulted.

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Linked by love

Shortly after this heart-warming display, a dispiriting message was heard over the PA: That evening’s ballgame, which had been suspended in the top of the second inning due to rain, would be postponed.

The Litterbox, enthusiastic as they may be, were not able to reverse the team’s decision. There would be no more baseball in Lynchburg that evening, nor would there be any more food. But my time with the Litterbox, believe it or not, was not over. The next day, I’d see them cheering on the Hillcats in Salem.

Until then, I remain, in virtual form:

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

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