Results tagged ‘ concessions ’
Harbingers of baseball season are everywhere these days. It will soon consume us entirely; we are the Jonah to its whale. One of today’s most prominent harbingers involves that which will be soon be consumed. The West Michigan Whitecaps, perpetual culinary innovators, have unveiled their new 2015 concession items.
Leading the list of additions is the winner of this season’s Food Contest, as voted on by the fans. Among a field of 10 items, the “Hot-to-Tot” nabbed 17% of the votes en route to victory.
Hot-to-Tot, which I assume is a reference to the best movie within the “stock market-savvy talking horse” genre, is described as “Buffalo tater tots with pulled chicken topped with blue cheese.”
Hot-to-Tot was an exercise in democracy, but the Whitecaps acted unilaterally as well. The following items will also be added to their array of 2015 concession items:
Nutella Poppers: “Nutella-stuffed sweet dough fried to a golden brown and rolled in sugar.”
Oreo Churros: “Oreo cookie pieces made into a churro served with Oreo frosting.” In my opinion, the team should have named these Choreos.
Pretzel-Breaded Italian Sausage: (Self-explanatory)
Beer-A-Misu: “Tiramisu gelato with local stout beer.”
Chicken and steak quesadillas will also be served at the Whitecaps’ home of Fifth Third Field in 2015, but I do not believe that photos of this item will excite the masses and therefore I will not post it.
Getting back to the “Hot-to-Tot,” the Whitecaps note that “previous winners of the food contest include the Auger Dogger (2014), Baco (2013), Westside Po’ Boy (2012), Chicks with Sticks (2011), the Cudighi Yooper Sandwich and the Declaration of Independence (both 2010). All have now been retired from the menu.”
It was a good run while it lasted, Baco. I got to enjoy one of those when I visited the Whitecaps in 2013.
The “Fifth Third Burger,” which is 5/3rds of a pound, lives on. Think you can eat one in one sitting?
Finally, I would like to commend myself for continuing to celebrate the ballpark food items that I cannot eat due to my 2012 celiac disease diagnosis. Yeah, I suffer for my art. Don’t we all?
It’s that time of year again, that time of year when I fulfill my journalistic talent to its full potential by posting pictures of new Minor League ballpark concession offerings.
Following standard operating procedure, we’ll begin with the West Michigan Whitecaps’ annual Fan Food Voting contest.
— Whitecaps (@wmwhitecaps) March 2, 2015
Through March 6, the masses can vote for one of the following 10 items. The winner will be served at the team’s home of Fifth Third Field in 2015, joining perennial favorites such as the Baco and, of course, the Fifth Third Burger.
First Row: Beer-a-Misu (scoop of tiramisu gelato added to craft beer), Cheesy Does It (hamburger with a cheese bun), Cotton Candy Curveball (cotton-candy wrapped Twinkie), Crispy Pig Chips (pork rinds with all the standard nacho fixings)
Second Row: French Fry Pizza Pie (self explanatory), Hot-to-Tot (tater tots with buffalo chicken and bleu cheese), Kat Dog (Kit-Kat bar inside of a hot dog), Picnic on a Stick (fried chicken, tater tots and pickles on a stick, fried in cornbread batter)
Third Row: The Legend of Pickle Hollowed (a hot dog inside of a hollowed out pickle, deep fried), Weenie Panini (hot dog stuffed panini)
For the record, here’s a picture of the Baco (taken during my 2013 visit to West Michigan)
Keeping within the Midwest League, we now move on the Appleton-based Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. On Thursday afternoon, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers sent the following tweet:
— Timber Rattlers (@TimberRattlers) February 26, 2015
“This,” in this case, was this:
Grilled Cheese Bacon Cheeseburger. Wisconsin Timber Rattlers 2015 pic.twitter.com/MxqnWFkIAB
— TimothyMichaelHansen (@ChefTimHansen) February 26, 2015
Then, on Friday, the T-Rats executive chef unveiled this. It’s a bacon cheeseburger enveloped within a funnel cake.
— TimothyMichaelHansen (@ChefTimHansen) February 27, 2015
No matter what your opinions are regarding hyper-fattening, internet-baiting Minor League cuisine, there is no doubt that chef Hansen knows exactly what he’s doing. I learned this first-hand in 2013, during a visit to the T-Rats’ home of Fox Cities Stadium. Hansen does high and low cuisine with equal aplomb; in his world sesame tuna on endive with pineapple salsa coexists peacefully alongside jerk chicken wings and a Philly cheesesteak.
Heading east, we find that the Lehigh Valley IronPigs have recently unveiled some new creations as well.
Pork Parfait: “Layers of mashed potatoes, pulled pork and cheese sauce topped with green onions.”
24-inch Frankfurter, “topped with chili, beer cheese, bacon, onion straws.” It is cut into four pieces; sharing is encouraged.
Finally, the Oklahoma City Dodgers will have more than a new name in 2015. The entity formerly known as the RedHawks will also offer these new concession items.
New concession items to whet your appetite before lunch: bacon & bleu nachos, pepper gravy fries, and Oreo churros! pic.twitter.com/enx8UY3sXr
— OKC Dodgers (@okc_dodgers) February 20, 2015
Actually, disregard the “finally” in the above item. As this blog post was being written, the Asheville Tourists unveiled this:
Topped with your choice of Syrup or Nacho Cheese. pic.twitter.com/yK5QNzVtOy
— Asheville Tourists (@GoTourists) March 2, 2015
That looks great and all, but can it compete with a deep-fried Moon Pie?
I’ve recently dedicated a post to showcasing new mascots that can be seen around the Minors; today’s post will focus on that other integral aspect of the Minor League Baseball experience: the food.
Let’s start with the El Paso Chihuahuas, who play their first-ever ballgame at brand-new Southwest University Park on April 28. Concessions at the new facility will be provided by Ovations, who unveiled the ballpark menu last month. Fairly thorough coverage of some of the more unique items can be found HERE and HERE among other places, including an awesome looking beef brisket “Salpicon Salad” that very well may be gluten-free (fingers crossed, I’ll be there on April 29 and 30 and will find out for sure). I contacted the team in the wake of their concessions unveiling, and Ovations’ Jeff Hanauer responded with the following pictures. And that is what you’re all here for, what you’re always here for: the pictures. Let’s proceed.
The Pico de Gallo will be included with many of the Chihuahuas’ Mexican-themed offerings. It looks outstanding, and this picture is suitable for framing.
Alligator bites with jalapeno cornbread (an El Paso specialty?)
The Chihua Dog, with bacon, beans, and jalapenos:
The Dudley Dog, a foot long and a half a pound, topped with chile con queso and pico de gallo:
A few of the many “Juarez Dogs” that will be available:
This sandwich is called, “From Philly, with Love”.
The Flamethrower, a half pound burger with ghost peppers, jack cheese, deep fried jalapenos, and chipotle ranch sauce:
Of course, no discussion of ballpark food is complete without the requisite White Michigan Whitecaps mention. Following in the footsteps of the Fifth Third Burger and the (gluten-free!) Baco, this year’s premier addition is the Auger Dogger. It is a deep-fried hot dog on a stick, surrounded by potato chips. Here’s hoping that this, too is gluten-free:
More notable concession additions, per the Whitecaps:
Pretzilla Bacon Cheeseburger (a pretzel bun with a one-third pound hamburger patty, bacon and cheese).
Coaches’ Sandwich – In honor of the three Whitecaps coaches, who hail from Australia (Andrew Graham), Texas (Mike Henneman) and Cuba (Nelson Santovenia), this sandwich includes two slices of ham, Hormel barbeque pulled pork, pickle shreddies, Swiss cheese and shrimp served on a sub bun.
Tony Gates Venison Burger – Named after the 97 WLAV local radio personality who is passionate about the outdoors and is an avid hunter, this venison burger on a bun and will be served at the Steak Cart behind home plate.
Over in Kannapolis, the Intimidators have unveiled some notable new additions. This one is self-explanatory, but I’ll explain: a 64 ounce serving of loaded nachos, served in a batting helmet.
Also of note is the Dale’s Mater sandwich, a favorite of Dale Earnhardt (for whom the Intimidators are named). It is, quite simply, a tomato sandwich with Duke’s mayonnaise.
The Trenton Thunder have unveiled a new signature item, one with a distinctly New Jersey flair. The Thunder Dog is “a jumbo sized Black Bear Franks hot dog wrapped in American cheese and famous Trenton pork roll and served on a torpedo roll.”
Also new in Trenton is the “Mega Nachos” stand, which can (and should!) be gluten-free. Sez the team:
Another new addition on the first base side is Mega Nachos, where fans can build-their-own nachos from a variety of toppings including: cheese, queso, chili, steak, chicken, pulled pork, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, salsa, guacamole, sour cream, and olives.
The Thunder have long had a Chickie and Pete’s stand at the ballpark, but these Philly-area purveyors of sandwiches and (gluten-free!) crab fries are now in Wilmington as well:
— Brian Radle (@BrianRadle7) April 8, 2014
And, hey, for those of you who consider gluttony to be a virtue: the Frederick Keys have recently announced a rather considerable eating challenge. Think you can do it? If so, what’s wrong with you?
Think you have what it takes to receive the Key to the City!? Check out our new eating challenge here at the Grove! pic.twitter.com/GL9xJPX2Re
— Frederick Keys (@FrederickKeys) April 16, 2014
Finally, in Fresno, the Grizzlies are now serving a “Grizzly Egg.” Per the Fresno Bee, it’s a “cream cheese-filled deviled egg, wrapped in bacon, baked and drizzled in buffalo sauce.” This thing better be gluten-free, because it looks awesome!
And that’s all of the food news I have to share with you, at least for the next couple of days. In the meantime, please know that I am writing up a storm over at MiLB.com:
— New Promo Preview leads with the Louisville Bats Corky Miller #FeartheStache t-shirt.
— New Farm’s Almanac takes a look at team-branded beer throughout the Minors.
And, as always, much more to come! There’s a reason that I say that I am the greatest of all time: because it’s true.
Signs of spring are all around us, from warmer weather to Major League Baseball being played at ungodly hours on international soil to tiresome Twitter jokes about busted NCAA brackets. But, for me, one of the surest signs of spring is the arrival of an email from John “Schu” Schumacher, food and beverage director of the Goldklang Group (the Minor League ownership group consisting of the Charleston RiverDogs, Fort Myers Miracle, Hudson Valley Renegades, St. Paul Saints, and Pittsfield Suns).
Schu is based in Charleston, and each offseason he and his RiverDogs cohorts retreat to a secluded kitchen location in order to concoct new food and beverage options that will be served at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park. In previous seasons I have written extensively about these culinary creations, from the Homewrecker Hot Dog to the Pickle Dog to the Pig on a Stick to Pimento Pickle Burgers and Facebook Nachos to duck and venison sausages to beer shakes and jalapeno peanut butter and jelly burgers.
Which brings us to now, which is all there ever was and all there will ever be. On the cusp of the 2014 campaign, Schu has gotten in touch with his annual email missive. I now cede the floor to him.
[RiverDogs food and beverage director] Josh [Shea] and I finally got out of the test kitchen and have determined our new menu items for the ’14 season…here are the highlights.
New and Improved Beer Shakes:
Beer Shakes were so popular last year, of course they will still be on the menu but we’re kicking it up a notch by adding Spiked Beer Shakes (beer & booze). Guinness Kahlua Shake & Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan Beer paired with a Cathead Pecan Vodka. We will also have a rotating specials.
And, in other alcohol news:
Our Wine Garden will be tweaked into a Sangria Garden serving 4 in-house made Sangrias concoctions (a red, 2 whites and a rose Sangria).
Yes, frog legs:
We started a self-serve Taco Herb Garden in ’13 – the fans loved it! So in 2014 we will be adding 2 more self-serve gardens for our fans to customize their menu items.
Carrot Dogs (and more)
We’ll be adding some additional items to our Healthy Menu – a herb Turkey Burger and a Carrot Dog (a herb & honey roasted carrot stuffed in a bun with cilantro cabbage slaw & drizzled with a Sriracha Honey).
All told, this will be a lot for Charleston to chew on.
You guessed it: in a continuation of recent blogging trends, today’s post will cover in-season topics that I didn’t get around to covering during the season itself. And today’s topic is one near and dear to many of your hearts, even though your heart would be much better off without it.
I am talking, of course, about colossally oversized food items. In a move ripped straight out of the Lake County Captains playbook, this July the Pensacola Blue Wahoos debuted a monstrous menagerie of deep-battered seafood that they called “The Battleship.”
Sez the team:
Tasked with creating something out of the box and unprecedented in Minor League Baseball, Blue Wahoos Executive Chef Chris Voorhees and Sous Chef Travis Wilson came up with the Battleship. It is a culinary creation that will tickle the fancy of any seafood loving sports fan.
“It’s like a po’boy all grown up,” said Voorhees.
So why not call it the Po’ Man? We’ll leave that question for another day, so that I may once again have a press release do my job for me:
[The Battleship] features jumbo fresh caught gulf shrimp, fried fresh oysters, two whole fried soft shell blue crabs and lightly fried potato salad “baseballs” with lettuce, sliced tomatoes and lemon tartar sauce all on a foot-long French bread roll garnished with a pair of grape tomato “pegs”.
The sandwich is large enough to feed a small family, but if fans can finish the entire thing on their own in under 11:21 minutes they get their name and picture on the Blue Wahoos Battleship Wall of Fame and an “I sank the Battleship” t-shirt. If they can ‘Sink the Battleship’ in under nine minutes, they get the wall recognition, t-shirt and the sandwich is free. So far the fastest finisher did so in 11:21 minutes, thus setting the benchmark for recognition.
Clearly, this is one game of Battleship that will always end with the call of “I-8.” (Even if what’s being “sunk” more closely resembles a sub.)
And — update! — check out this informative and compulsively readable post on the Battleship, courtesy of the Blue Wahoos’ “Hook, Line, and Sinker” blog.
As most of you know, my days of consuming Brobdingnagian concession stand entities has gone the way of the dodo, thanks to a 2012 celiac disease diagnosis (file under “What can you do?”). For those who may be interested, this summer Alysa Bajenaru interviewed me about my life as a “ballpark celiac” for her “Inspired RD” blog. Alysa also has celiac disease, and as the wife of professional pitcher-turned-coach Jeff Bajenaru she’s spent an inordinate amount of time at the ballpark as well.
Read the interview HERE, because I’ve got nothing else to offer today. Thus concludes Ben’s Biz Blog post #995.
In my capacity as floundering elder blogger-statesman of the Minor League scene, I’ve written about more than my share of patently unhealthy and/or ridiculously oversized and/or ridiculously conceived concession items.
Y’know, like this “Ramen Dawg” that the Salem Red Sox served during last month’s “College Night” promotion.
But there’s a yin to every yang, a Jekyll to every Hyde, a Shobam to every Yobam, which is to say that for the remainder of today’s post I will feature some downright healthy ballpark undertakings.
Let’s start with the Akron Aeros, who, perhaps in atonement for the “Inside Out Burger,” recently staged a promotion with the undeniably awesome name of “Vegan Iron Chef.” Director of promotions Christina Shisler explains:
For Vegan Iron Chef we have partnered with the “Who’s Your Mama? Earth Day Festival” to bring in Vegan Iron Chef contestants and a Vegetable Carving Championship Competition to Canal Park on April 22 (Earth Day)! There will be eight chefs making vegan dishes for a table of judges. Fans will get to watch, as the competition begins when gates open, and then sample vegan food throughout the game.
Two of the competitors in action.
And, yes, there was also a Vegetable Carving Championship.
Team-logo Cantaloupe. (Cantalogo?)
Winner, winner, meat-free dinner!
For another excellent bit of healthy ballpark living we go to the Quad Cities, as the River Bandits staged a “Race the Game” promotion as a follow-up of sorts to their inaugural 5K race. Director of promotions and marketing Shane Huff explains:
[We] invited one of the top overall finishers [in the 5K race] to come back to today’s game and literally race the game. This contestant, Marvin McMeekan, will try to comlete a 9-mile run on a treadmill – placed on the outfield berm for everyone to see – before the game becomes official. If Marvin can beat the game, EVERYONE in attendance wins a prize. We’re going to interview Marvin before the game and do live look-ins throughout the game to help build suspense.
Marvin in action.
I, for one, never had any doubt that Marvin would complete the task. And he did, ably. Writes Huff:
It went very well. The live look-ins between innings really helped get the crowd get into it. And Marvin crushed it! He completed the 9 miles with just under an inning to spare!
It went so well that we’re already discussing plans on doing it again later this summer on a night with a bigger crowd and better prizes.
Race the Game is a great, easily adaptable idea and if it doesn’t catch on then I will be deeply disappointed in the entire industry. (Crushed, even, in the non I-just-outraced-a-ballgame-sense-of-the-word.)
And if you want add a real sense of drama to the whole thing, then invite me to be the runner. I’d probably fail, and failing is what I do best (especially in front of crowds).
On that note I shall conclude. Tomcat says “Have a Great Weekend!”
More on that guy in an upcoming post.
Year after year (after year after year) there are two Minor League teams that can be counted on to deliver the goods when it comes to creating unique concession items. One of those teams is the Charleston RiverDogs, featured yesterday.
And the other?
The West Michigan Whitecaps, of course, who made a colossal impact with 2009’s “Fifth Third Burger” and, since then, have never looked back. Each year they present 10 potential menu additions to their presumably food-crazy fan base, and the one that receives the most online votes is integrated into the concession offerings.
This year’s addition is (lurching, arrhythmic, artery-clogged drumroll please): The Baco!
The Baco (which, when first announced, had an umlaut in its name) is, quite simply, a bacon-shelled taco. Because variety is the spice of life, here’s another view:
And because the rule of threes must always be abided by, here’s one more look.
The Baco will be sold to anyone willing to purchase one, no strings attached. But the other truly significant addition to the Whitecaps’ concession menu REQUIRES FANS TO SIGN A WAIVER. This is the “Squeelin’ Pig,” to be eaten at your own risk.
Regarding the above sandwich, the Whitecaps have this to say:
Billed as the spiciest sandwich served at any ballpark, this is a pulled pork sandwich packed with a punch of Giardinara, a sprinkle of Ghost Pepper and flaming BBQ sauce.
It’s certainly the spiciest ballpark sandwich that I am aware of (if you have a dissenting view, then please let me know). I think this deserves a closer look. I mean, not all that much closer. Just a little bit:
Okay, my picture supply is officially exhausted (although please note that I actually have multiple pictures). But even in the absence of images, I must carry on. For the Whitecaps have actually added 17 items to their 2013 concession line-up, and I’d like to alert you to some of the highlights:
Fried Mac & Jack Cheese Bites – Macaroni and Jack cheese, battered and fried. (Main Concessions Stands)
Iced Coffee – Swiss Mocha or French Vanilla creamy iced coffee topped with whipped cream. (Suites and Main Concessions Stands)
Mac & Cheese Cart – Traditional or White Mac & Cheese topped with your choice of bacon, lobster, buffalo chicken, hamburger, or chili (Home Plate Concourse Cart)
Smoked Sausage Kabobs – Seasoned and apple wood smoked sausage, potato, and green pepper kabobs (1st Base Concourse Smoker)
Moo-ville Ice Cream – Flavors such as Supercow and Cowtrails top the list of a variety of premium ice creams sold at the ballpark (3rd Base Concourse)
Red’s Apple Ale, Perrin Golden Ale, and Shock Top Apple Crisp Beers- New unique profile beers to be served throughout the ballpark. (Beer Portables)
ALSO! The Whitecaps’ website features a downloadable PDF of their Gluten-Free Menu. Great news for celiac-afflicted individuals such as myself, and something I’d love to see more teams do. Let me know if your team, in fact, does.
Oh, and because I’m the best there ever was, is, or will be, this post isn’t the only thing I’ve produced today. New Ben’s Bookshelf column out NOW, featuring my favorite Minor League Baseball books. What are yours?
My previous post focused on a variety of Opening Day innovations, but consider it a prelude to this, the most reliably enjoyable Opening Day innovation of them all: creative Charleston RiverDogs’ concessions!
Regular readers of this blog have long thrilled to the culinary creations of John Schumacher (aka “Schu”), the man behind the Pickle Dog, Homewrecker, Pig on a Stick, “alternative tubular meat searches” and many more offerings at Joseph P. Riley Park (aka “The Joe”).
Yesterday Schu, the food and beverage director for the Goldklang Group (of which the RiverDogs are a part), sent me a photo-laden email containing the latest — and therefore greatest — additions to the RiverDogs food and beverage line-up. Take it away, Schu:
We’ve experimented and were extremely happy with with our Beer Shake creations, and have decided to offer 3 flavors: Palmetto Espresso Porter Chocolate (from a local brewery), Guinness Caramel and Sweetwater 420 Strawberry….they’re delicious!
Beer shake ingredients:
Schu also reports that the RiverDogs will be offering a beer with the delightful name of “Pig Swig,” created by local grocery store chain Piggly Wiggly. But moving on to harder offerings, there’s this:
We will be adding Moonshine Margaritas to our Tiki Hut using locally made flavored moonshines (Peach & Cherry) from Firefly Distillery.
Such alcoholic concoctions can be paired with new menu additions like, oh, I don’t know, a Peanut Butter and Jelly Jalapeno Bacon Burger. Schu calls it “mindblowing.”
While perhaps not quite as attention-getting as the above, there are plenty of other big changes afoot. From Schu:
We are doing a slight makeover (but staying in the same hemisphere) with the changing of our Nacho House to a Taco House called “Wacko for Taco.” (However, because of their popularity we will continue to offer our Kitchen Sink Nachos.) The Taco Menu will include a Chipotle Chicken, Beef, & Pulled Pork Taco (locally made pulled pork from Sticky Fingers).
The 2 headliner items will be a Charlie T(aco) Dog which includes both a soft & hard taco with a hot dog, mustard BBQ sauce & cole slaw filling. For the other featured taco, the MUSC Urban Farm Veggie Taco, we will be partnering with The Medical University of South Carolina that recently started an Urban Garden in downtown Charleston. We will be going to the Farm each homestand to harvest the veggies & herbs to use in the taco.
Fans of tubular meats will be happy to know that the team’s Sausage World stand is returning, with a Chicken and Apple sausage now complementing the likes of Alligator, Duck, and Bratwurst. And for those just looking for a light, healthy snack, the RiverDogs now offer the following:
Under our Snack Menu we will be adding Fresh Fried Pork Rinds and Pork Cracklins. In addition we will also be offering Deep Fried Peanuts in Sea Salt & BBQ flavors.
Yes! Rinds and Cracklins (a particular bad habit of mine whenever my travels take me below the Mason-Dixon line). Writes Schu:
They come from a company called Triland Foods out of Iowa. You drop the product in 400 degree oil & they take about 30 seconds to expand (or explode as we like to put it). Then you can dust them with your favorite flavoring.
Before and after:
After a season spent preparing items such as the above, I hope that Schu and his staff can actually fit into these shirts!
When I wrote my celiac disease “coming out” post back in early July, I made clear that I was still ready, willing and able to post any and all Minor League food pictures on this blog. But actions speak louder than words, so let’s kick off today’s post with some deep-fried photography of a decidedly gluten-ous/gluttonous bent.
That would be a fried Snickers bar, just one of many delectable offerings that the Charlotte Knights served as part of a “Fried-day” promotion they ran this summer. The team also served fried Oreos.
And fried S’mores were also on the agenda.
Knights media relations director Tommy Viola reported that the “Fried-day” items “sold like hotcakes,” leading him to then wonder “Hmm, maybe we should try fried hot cakes.”
A decidedly less appetizing and far more ridiculous food-related item emerged in Fort Myers last month, as the Miracle staged a “Salute to Bacon” promotion. As part of the festivities, the balls used for the evening’s ceremonial first pitch looked like this.
When I posted this picture on Twitter, it inspired former Iowa Cubs media relations director/current PR professional Andrea Breen to get in touch. She wanted to let me know that this item was being sold at the Iowa State Fair:
This delectable item was sold by vendor The Bird’s Nest, and described as follows:
The Bacon Wrapped Eggs is muffin-sized and has a layer of pancake batter, crumbled bacon, a cracked egg surrounded by another strip of bacon, then topped with cheese and cooked to perfection. It will be sold for $2.50.
There’s only one possible transition that I can think of at this point, and that is, of course, to write about sports bras. Last month, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans gave them away as part of a “Ladies Night” promotion. Take it away, press release:
Run support won’t be the only thing providing a lift at TicketReturn.com Field at Pelicans Ballpark Thursday Night. It’s Ladies’ Night and the Myrtle Beach Pelicans are giving away sports bras, courtesy of Carolina Coastal Plastic Surgery, to the first 200 women 18 and over.
With new sports bras in hand, ladies can then bid on “dates” with eligible members of the Pelicans front office. All proceeds will benefit the Bruce Dal Canton Fund to support students higher education goals in Horry County. Winning bidders can date their staff member for the last few innings of the game and then receive a prize pack including movie tickets for a real date night. Whether or not winners take their Pelicans staff members on those dates is up to them. In the history of Ladies’ Night, no staffer has been lucky enough for a second date.
While I don’t have any photographs of the sports bras that were given away, let it be known that “Bachelor Quattro” was very much in demand.
Okay, that’s it for me today. I wish I could end with a Zinger, something that would make you Snicker, but I just don’t have any S’more.
At the ballpark, and in life, I’ve always been the sort of person who will eat just about anything. This attitude has certainly been beneficial to my professional career, as the consumption of concessions is integral to the Minor League experience. My desire is to document the full range of what each ballpark has to offer, so why would I turn anything down?
Yes to everything!
Except, no. The days of unthinking acquiescence to each and every culinary option placed before me are now over. Call it poetic justice, or delicious irony, or merely a spot of bad luck within a life of immense privilege, but I, Ben Hill, steadfast chronicler of the Minor League culinary scene, have celiac disease. From now until whenever it may be that I shuffle off of this mortal coil, I must abide by a gluten-free diet.
What does this mean? Well, no more Stoney Dogs. That’s for damn sure.
For those (such as myself, circa two months ago) who are blissfully ignorant of what celiac disease is, here’s how it’s defined by the National Library of Health: a condition that damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing parts of food that are important for staying healthy. The damage is due to a reaction to eating gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye, and possibly oats.
And with that, the majority of ballpark foods are rendered off limits. Virtually all buns and rolls contain wheat flour, so there go hot dogs, sausages and hamburgers. Pretzels are not allowed, nor are corn dogs, and nacho cheese is deeply suspect. And anything that is breaded and fried most likely contains gluten, so next time I’m in Memphis I’ll have to forgo the Chicken on a Stick:
And, oh yeah: no more beer.
Thanks for everything, Yuengling. It’s not you, it’s me.
As for how I received this particular diagnosis, like a lot of things in life it was a convoluted and roundabout process. I have long made it a point to donate blood on a consistent basis, but over the last year or so I was regularly rejected from giving due to low iron levels. At first I shrugged off this unexplained anemia, like, “Fine, whatever, maybe I just need some spinach and/or a steak dinner.” But after the third time it happened, the woman at the blood center expressed surprise and concern that an individual such as myself (male, 33) would have such a condition and said that I really should see a doctor.
I did, eventually, and an appointment with my general practitioner then led to visits with both a hematologist and a gastroenterologist. They both suspected celiac, and an endoscopy in the beginning of May (shortly after I returned from my Florida road trip) made it official. To paraphrase Billy Joel: “The doctor diagnosed me as a celiac-ac-ac-ac-ac-ac/said you ought to know by now.”
So, to incorporate my personal experiences with the definition of celiac disease provided above, what was happening was this: gluten was damaging the linings of my small intestines, making me unable to absorb iron properly. Hence, the anemia. I can’t say that I was experiencing any symptoms that, in and of themselves, would have caused me to seek medical attention, and there’s a part of me that wishes I hadn’t attempted to give blood because ignorance is bliss. I’d still be living my life like it was 2011.
But that’s a faulty perspective, as in the grand scheme of things this diagnosis is nothing but a positive. Having celiac disease makes me much more aware of what is in the food I am eating, and a mindful approach to my diet is something that had previously been lacking. I will be a healthier person, and, among other things, this will lead to an increased ability to win mascot races. And the costumes don’t even need to be gluten-free!
The more diligent readers of this blog have surely already put two and two together: I knew of my celiac disease prior to my most recent “OK-AR-MO-TN” road trip, but I kept it under wraps and cheated like hell throughout the entire thing. This was a deliberate decision that I made going in, for two reasons:
One, I wanted the chance to say goodbye, as it were, and I certainly had some bittersweet moments throughout the entirety of the trip (that Yuengling in Jackson, TN, seen above, being a prime example). And, two, I thought that it would be beneficial to simply make a note of the challenges I’d be facing going forward without, you know, actually having to face them.
But truth be told, I’m not all that upset about my new ballpark limitations. As a writer I’m always looking for new angles, and having celiac disease while touring Minor League ballparks is a great one and something that I’d never have been creative enough to think of on my own. My condition will add another layer to the story, helping to spread awareness of the gluten-free lifestyle while giving teams the chance to promote the options that they do have available. At this point I’m a well-respected figure in this industry (or at least that’s what I tell myself), so I believe that I can play a role in having teams, when possible, re-assess their operations with an eye toward making “concessions” to, and for, those with dietary limitations.
But, that said, I want to reiterate the following as strongly as I possibly can: I WILL STILL WRITE ABOUT ANY AND ALL BALLPARK FOOD ITEMS! Even if I can’t eat it, it doesn’t mean that I’m not interested in it. My job is to provide a full picture of the stadium experience, and this, obviously, means that nothing is off limits.
On my previous road trips, there have been some teams that wished to highlight the depth and breadth of their concession operations by giving me extensive food tours. I am still interested in doing this, where applicable, but before the game I may recruit a fan to join me as a designated eater. If I end up visiting a team near YOU, then get in touch. I may end up living vicariously through your enjoyment of the food, in much the same way that readers of this blog have told me that they have enjoyed living vicariously through mine. What goes around comes around.
I’ll close with a necessary, and hopefully obvious, observation: this is all a work in progress. Being diagnosed with celiac disease doesn’t make me any sort of an expert on it. I will learn as I go along, and I will certainly make mistakes. (And, make no mistake, there is much to learn: before the diagnosis, I thought a “dedicated fryer” was a priest that was really committed to his job, and that “cross contamination” might be the sort of thing he’d be prone to worrying about.)
As I have done throughout my career, I now defer to you. Be you team employee or fan, I’d be very interested in your gluten-free feedback. What, if anything, has your favorite team done to accommodate fans with this condition? And, among those who are currently gluten-free, what are your favorite ballpark foods?
In its own weird way, this is gonna be fun.