Results tagged ‘ concessions ’

Ben’s Biz Blog: Now with Celiac Disease!

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.

Put it down, bro.

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 Healtha 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:

It’s better to have loved and lost…

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.

The good old days, when G.I. problems meant having to compete against them in burrito-eating contests

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!

Oh, the irony.

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.

Advocate for change, crusader for justice

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.

Funnel Dogs: Still welcome!

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.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Some Shuck, No Jive

Last month’s Florida road trip was, all in all, an overwhelmingly positive experience. But one of the minor disappointments was the relative dearth of local seafood options at the ballparks — for whatever reason, the crab shacks and grouper sandwich spots that were prevalent in the area didn’t cross over into the stadium experience.

So kudos to the Daytona Cubs for taking a step toward rectifying this situation. On select nights through the remainder of the season, employees from nearby Riptides Bar and Grill will be shucking and serving oysters on the half shell!

This past Thursday was the debut of the D-Cubs oyster bar, and as you can tell from the pictures the weather was ominous and therefore the crowds sparse. But he introduction of oysters to the Minor League concession scene is a very positive development, in my opinion, and I am hoping that this idea is a success in Daytona and then spreads to all applicable markets with considerable haste!

I’m not sure of the proper way to dispose of oyster shells, but if this was in Durham I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bulls found a way to recycle them into t-shirt material. The team recently partnered with local collegiate clothing company Spring House to create a line of “Bull City” t-shirts made from 100% recyclable materials (including water bottles, plastic beer bottles and x-ray film).

From the press release:

The entire line is manufactured in Durham’s one and only garment factory, less than three miles away from the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. School House, which designed and manufactured the line, sees  the Bull City collection as an example of the power of “Made in USA” products and local manufacturing.

At this point you’ve all surely thoroughly dissected my most recent Promotion Preview column over at MiLB.com, which leads with approximately 400 words on the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers “Salute to Cows” (yes, I’m just the only person these days who manages to consistently write about Wisconsin in an apolitical context).

The team sent along some photos to run with the piece, and I’d like to share a couple of them here. These are just fantastic, these images, especially because they remind me of a VHS video produced by a Wisconsin-based band that I watched approximately 1500 times in college.

And, finally, I draw your attention to THIS. It’s the State College Spikes’ take on the “Call Me Maybe” video, and they totally nail it. Watch it, definitely.

benjamin.hill@mlb

twitter.com/bensbiz

Spreading the Health

The combined caloric content of the food items that I have posted on this blog would add up to a truly colossal total, enough to send even the hardiest of individuals into eternal slumber. I have no plans to stop posting this sort of material (as the recent “Inside-Out Burger” update should make clear), but sometimes I feel slight pangs of regret for contributing to the downfall of mankind in such blatant fashion.

As an antidote, take a look at this recent concession addition to Buffalo’s Coca-Cola Field: The Healthy Zone

As the corporate insignia on the sign makes clear, “The Healthy Zone” was created in conjunction with BlueCross BlueShield as part of the company’s “Healthy Changes Everything” initiative. Gretchen Fierle, vice president and chief communications officer of BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, reports that “the goal is to help people take small steps to living healthier lives – from the activities they do to the food they eat,  [BlueCross BlueShield] is creating and bringing healthier options to the community.”

The stand was created out of a desire to provide a one-stop shop for healthy cuisine (as opposed to options scattered throughout the ballpark), and the menu includes:

  • Turkey and veggie burgers with lettuce, tomato and either garlic or roasted red pepper hummus on a whole grain roll
  • Chicken sausage with spinach and feta on a hot dog roll
  • Yogurt fruit parfait
  • A selection of bottle water, diet soda and light beer

The Bisons are certainly not the only team to have instituted such an endeavor (as this 2009 piece of mine would illustrate), but it’s certainly one of the more ambitious. Feel free to get in touch with other examples, or to provide a counterpoint to this counterpoint by updating me on your plans to create a hot dog placed inside of six donuts and then deep fried and slathered with caramel icing and black cherry Gummi worms.

It takes all kinds.

It all feels a bit distant now, but TOMORROW I will depart on my first road trip of the season. It all starts with this Clearwater Threshers game:

There’s plenty more where that came from, as the Threshers consistently produce some of the best commercials in MiLB:

Look for the first blog posts and articles from the trip to appear early next week, and they’ll no doubt continue well into the next. In the meantime, keep getting in touch with all manner of interesting MiLB news. Too much is never enough, except for when it always is. Along those lines, here, once again, is my road trip itinerary:

April 27: Clearwater Threshers

April 28: Fort Myers Miracle

April 29: Charlotte Stone Crabs

April 30: Lakeland Flying Tigers

May 1: Daytona Cubs

May 2: travel (but hopefully I can take in the 10:30 a.m. D-Cubs game in “fan” mode)

May 3-4: Pensacola Blue Wahoos

Finally, I’d like to give a sincere thank you to everyone who supports what it is I do. I hope that that gratitude is apparent in everything I write, but it doesn’t hurt to say it once in a while.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

On Avant-Garde Hamburgers and the Merits of Keeping Score

Last year the Akron Aeros unleashed the “Three Dog Night” and “Nice 2 Meat You Burger” upon the world, immediately establishing themselves as prime-time players in the world of ridiculously meaty and grotesquely oversized concession items. Despite a significant amount of staff turnover since those heady days (including the departure of food and beverage director Jason Kerton), the team has nonetheless retained its commitment to this type of culinary experience.

It has barely been promoted to the world at large, but via the team’s Facebook page I was able to ascertain the existence of the “Inside Out Burger.”

The team reports, also on Facebook, that this reversified concoction was “created by Canal Park Food and Beverage Director, Nate Michel” and “features two burgers on the outside, kielbasa, cheese, pulled pork, and the bottom part of a hamburger bun in the middle.”

A flattering image of man and burger:

Comments on the Facebook page were largely negative, especially from females, prompting one Mike Dallas to write “What are all you girls talking ’bout? This burger is all that…and a bag of chips…holla at your boy!”

I’ll let Mr. Dallas have the final word in this particular debate, but in other matters I have more to say. For instance — my most recent Farm’s Almanac feature ran today, on the time-honored art of scorekeeping. It leads off with an explanation of Wisconsin Timber Rattlers announcer Chris Mehring’s color-coded system, which requires the following supplies:

Purple is for hit-by-pitch, because purple=bruises.

One great scorekeeping anecdote that I wasn’t able to fit into the piece came courtesy of Pawtucket Red Sox social media maestro Peter Sachs who, in 2010, called the independent league game in which Spaceman Bill Lee earned the win at the age of 63 (the oldest pitcher to ever earn a win in  professional game, a mark that Jamie Moyer won’t have the chance to eclipse until 2026). Sachs donated his scorecard from the historic contest to the Hall of Fame, and in return received this:

Pretty cool, right? Along similar lines, I recently received my Major League Baseball “Courtesy Pass,” which admits “Benjamin Hill and guest” to any MLB game (certain restrictions may apply).

It’s a busy time of year, obviously, so I don’t get to use the pass as often as I’d like to. But if you want to be my guest at a game in New York City then send me an email; if we can find a date amenable to both of our schedules then we’ll go. Why not? It’ll be fun.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Opening With A Salvo

It’s Opening Day 2012, and my reaction regarding the start of a new baseball season is the same as it is every year. Four words says it all, and then some.

I would GREATLY appreciate it if someone could take the audio from the clip linked to above  and lay it over an array of upbeat Minor League images, ending with the Opening Day 2012 logo. I’m serious.

And what better way to commemorate Opening Day than by reading the first “Promo Preview” column of the year? Let me know what you think of the new format (the jokes are still old). Featured in said column are new MiLB innovations such as this, straight outta Asheville:

TOURISTS GAME BALLS TO BE DELIVERED VIA ZIPLINE

The team reports, you decide:

Beginning on Opening Day, the Asheville Tourists, in conjunction with Wildwater ‘s Asheville Zipline Canopy Adventures, will deliver the game ball via zipline. Beginning nearly 500 feet from home plate, a guide from the Asheville-based zipline company and one lucky fan will fly 30 feet above the field, from the grounds of Memorial Stadium to the heart of McCormick Field, just prior to the announcement of “Play ball!”

“Coming to the ballpark is centered on entertainment and having fun,” said Tourists president Brian DeWine. “We felt there was no better way to achieve that goal than to combine two of Asheville’s favorite activities in baseball and ziplining.”

As for what else has been going on, the answer is EVERYTHING. For starters, special postal deliveries have been arriving regularly here at MiLB.com HQ, courtesy of all sorts of folks. Two of the newer arrivals:

Memphis Redbirds Schedule Poster

This is, if not a game changer, then at least a game modifier (I’d also accept “alterer”). As you can see in the above photo, fans can place their SmartPhones over Shelby Miller’s mouth in order to watch a video highlighting upcoming promotions. I’d tell you about said video, excepting my phone is defiantly stupid. It doesn’t even have the number 5.

Mermerch!

Meanwhile, a “Myrtle Beach Mermen” shirt arrived courtesy of Die Hard Threads.

Believe it or not, I have yet to watch Eastbound and Down. (Most of my television time has been spent lobbying Sony to release the rest of Mary Hartman Mary Hartman on DVD.) But the shirt is pretty cool, is it not?

Let’s close this Opening Day missive with a pair of items from our high-flying friends in Lancaster, CA — the JetHawks. In the wake of last Friday’s mega-sized Mega Millions drawing, the team decided to make winners (of sorts) out of the losers.

Starting Saturday from 11am to 2pm, fans can bring losing lottery tickets to the Clear Channel Stadium box office and receive a $2 discount on any April 12 Opening Day ticket in any section. If you can’t make it on Saturday, the discount will be available April 2-6 from 9am to 5pm.

And once admission is gained to a JetHawks game, unique comestibles await. This year’s latest (and therefore greatest) item is called “The Hawk’s Nest.”

It is, quite simply, “a nest of crispy onion straws in a bowl, topped with juicy chicken strips, chili, and cheese.”

And with that, a cut and pasted food description, I conclude my first post of the 2012 season. There’ll be plenty more where that came from.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Totally Tubular

Food content has been enjoying a bit of a renaissance on the blog as of late, and who I am to curtail a renaissance?

The latest comestible tidbit to come down the pike involves a team that could reasonably make a claim to having the best concessions in all of Minor League Baseball: The Charleston RiverDogs.

John Schumacher, Food and Beverage Director extraordinaire, reports that during the offseason “an alternative tubular meat search” was conducted and that “fortunately (or unfortunately) we were successful.” RiverDogs fans, already spoiled when it comes to the variety of traditional tubular meat on offer, will now be able to choose from the following:

That big fella on the far right would be alligator. Duck is at the top of the plate, with venison down below. These alternative tubular meats come courtesy of a boutique butcher that goes by the name of Fossil Farms, and will be part of a new “Sausage World” food stand. The menu:

Sausage World – featuring Brats, Kielbasa, Duck Sausage with plum sauce, Venison Sausage with chipotle BBQ sauce (named the Byrdog after a close friend) & Alligator Sausage with a remoulade.

In another Minor League rarity, the RiverDogs are adding a wine garden to the mix in 2012. It’s still in the maturation process.

I’ve been racking my brain (and you know how painful that can be), but thus far I’ve been unable to think of any other teams that offer a wine garden. Are any out there?

And are there any other teams that market themselves specifically to “foodies”?

If any other teams would like to tout their new food and beverage selections, then you know where to find me (or, at least I hope you do. Check the bottom of this post, as well as every other post I’ve ever written).

And this doesn’t just go for food, of course. If you’re involved or interested in Minor League Baseball in any way, shape, or form, then please don’t hesitate to let me know what’s going on.

For instance, reader Matt Musk recently pointed me to his self-published book “Dream On” (available as an e-book and on paperback). It’s a quick and informative read about his journey from failed youth baseball player to Midwest League champion (of sorts). Lots of good anecdotes are contained therein, dealing with the absurdity of Minor League front office life.

And then there’s Mr. Rex Doane, who checked in last week in order to report that “Today I am the only man in NYC to wear the new High Desert Mavericks cap…it is a responsibility I am willing to shoulder.”

New York City: the epicenter of global fashion trends.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

Sandwich, or Elaborate Metaphor for Hubristic Folly of Man?

After a banner 2011, things have been slow on the “Extreme Food” front this offseason. This is a negative when it comes to the amount of traffic that I am able to attract to this blog, but a positive when it comes to the dignity of the human race.

Today, let’s up the traffic and lower our dignity. For the Lake County Captains have unveiled a sea-faring monstrosity, the likes of which have been never seen before within the calorie-laden Minor League landscape. It’s the “Moby Dick,” boasting a heft quite similar to its novelistic counterpart.

Unlike the titular White Whale in Melville’s masterpiece, the Captains’ sandwich is easily attainable. For a mere $20, all of this can be yours:

The Captains’ “Moby Dick” press release was, disappointingly, free from rambling tangenital excursions serving to elucidate the inherently paradoxical nature of the human condition (and nary a Queequeg reference was to be found). But it did give the scoop on just what is contained in this thing:

The Moby Dick features a 15″ sesame seed hoagie roll, five quarter-pound fish filets, eight slices of cheese, six ounces of clam strips, one-third pound of French fries, one cup of cole slaw, all topped off by gobs of lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and tartar sauce. The price for the sandwich is only $20.

 The final product weighs-in at over three pounds and feeds two fans uncomfortably or four fans comfortably. The sandwich, with over 4000 calories and a diet-killing 200 grams of fat, will be available in select locations throughout Classic Park at all Captains home games.

Baleen Cuisine?

Individual fans will have the opportunity to take the Moby Dick Challenge and attempt to consume a single Moby Dick sandwich in less than one hour by themselves. Fans wishing to attempt this feat will do so while seated in the Moby Dick Challenge Chair located on the main concourse at Classic Park.

 If they are successful, the fans who take part in the Challenge will receive a commemorative t-shirt that they can wear with pride and their photo will be placed on the Champion Eaters bulletin board at Classic Park.

So what are YOUR thoughts on this near-mythical concoction? Tasty ballpark treat, sure sign of the apocalypse, or both?

Either way, I laud the Captains (or “Ahabs”, in this case) for referencing one of the greatest books of all time. My feelings upon completing this blog post are similar to sentiments expressed by Ishmael, after he took a few moments to write out a rough draft of his will:

“I looked round me tranquilly and contentedly, like a quiet ghost with a clean conscience sitting inside the bars of a snug family vault.”

The greatest simile of all time?

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

In the Absence of Whipped Cream: Other Delights

Everything’s Cyclical is what I named my (now-defunct) bike shop, but these two words apply to Minor League blogging as well. And in accordance with the natural rhythms of that particular cycle, it is now time for me to write a bit about ballpark food.

In comparison to past seasons, there haven’t been any media-baiting monstrosities unveiled as a means to generate interest in the coming baseball campaign. But, as always, there are some new concession stand items vying for your attention (and mine).

Down in Southwest Florida, the Fort Myers Miracle have premiered the Breakfast Brat (topped with bacon, egg, and a “drizzle” of maple syrup).

That looks like a wonderful concoction, but surely it’s not enough to satiate the appetite of the hungry blog reader. So for dessert, let’s head to that delicately-combined triumvirate of state names known as Delmarva. The Shorebirds are offering a “super-pretzel” this season, one that’s the size of five mortal pretzels and comes equipped with three toppings.

Apparently it is so tempting that the photographer ate some before taking the requisite glamor shot:

The team asked fans to give this pretzel a name, a query which generated an amazing 130 responses.

Some suggestions, such as “This does not look appetizing at all,” were not as clear and concise as the team would have liked. But many were, and among these “Pretzilla” was my favorite. My suggestion: Love Me Dough.

UPDATE: In response to a flurry of reader inquiries, I contacted the ShoreBirds in order to determine just what the above three toppings are. Your answer: Chocolate, strawberry, and cream cheese. AND THAT’S NOT ALL! The team is also offering a “savory” version of the pretzel, with toppings of pizza sauce, garlic butter, and nacho cheese.

Meanwhile, the Quad Cities River Bandits have asked fans to vote on what 2012’s new concession item will be. The choices are:

  • Chorizo Corn Dog
  • Mashed Potato Sundae
  • Smoked Turkey Leg
  • Deep Fried Pork Tenderloin
  • Fried Ravioli with Marinara
  • QC Steak Sandwich with BBQ Sauce & Cheddar Cheese

My choice is an emphatic one: the Chorizo Corn Dog. But, as is so often the case, my opinion has proven to be too esoteric. The QC Steak Sandwich is currently in first (voting ends today!), with the Chorizo Corn Dog a distant fourth.

Basically, I just wanted to write about a Chorizo Corn Dog. And it was all for naught.

This coulda been you, chorizo.

One team that is no stranger to fan voting are the West Michigan Whitecaps,  who, as is their custom, had fans vote on 10 potential new food items. As always, there were some interesting contenders.

How about some Scotch Eggs, followed by a deep-fried root beer float (ice cream sandwich dipped in root beer batter and deep fried)?

In college I used to call the above combo the “breakfast of champions,” but since then I’ve learned to consolidate. Now I just stick to deep-fried Scotch. But neither above the above two items will be on the 2012 menu. That honor goes to…well, I’ll let the team make the announcement, as they have done so in cinematic style.

Yes, the Westside Po’  Boy: sports kielbasa, pierogies and sauerkraut smothered in marinara sauce and loaded on a hoagie roll. It replaces last year’s winner “Chicks With Sticks” (celery, carrots, and hummus) which was — the horror! — actually good for you. Clearly, healthy eating at the ballpark is a concept that the American populace is not quite ready to embrace.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

(Nacho) Typical Blog Post

The previous post on this blog ended with an anniversary logo (the Hickory Crawdads 20th, to be exact), so in the interest of seamless transitions let’s keep that particular train right on a-rollin':

Good natured ribbon

It should be self-explanatory, but the above mark commemorates the fact that 2012 will be the Northwest Arkansas Naturals’ fifth season. They played their first season way back in 2008, when George W. Bush was president, the price of a postage stamp was a mere 41 cents, and Ben’s Biz Blog was less than a year old.

But enough about bygone eras. Let’s celebrate the future! The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers announced that there will be a nacho stand at the ballpark in 2012,  and the team is currently conducting a Facebook poll to determine what the stand should be called. I am pleased to report that my submission of “Nacho, Nacho Stand” is one of the finalists.

I am not pleased to report that, as of this writing, my submission has received all of 16 votes. “Class A Nachos” is currently in first, and, really, that one is not nearly as good as  mine or fellow contender “Nachossss.” Biz Blog readers, now is the time to rectify this egregious wrong! Vote HERE! (If I win, I’ll donate my free full-size free nacho grande helmet to charity).

I've had all I can stands, and I can't stands no more!

2012 will also be Season 1 for the new-look Swoop, mascot of the South Bend Silver Hawks. When Swoop last appeared in this blog, he was engaged in an intimate moment with a Miss America contest.

But those days of tongue-in-beak insouciance are over. For last week, the Silver Hawks gave Swoop a makeover:

Speaking of the Silver Hawks, they were, to my knowledge, the only MiLB team to run a local TV ad during the Super Bowl. That spot, cinematic in scope, can be viewed HERE.

Of course, a far more common Minor League approach is to engage in a spot of parody. The Frederick Keys did just this, putting their own spin on a FIAT ad (the original can be viewed HERE).

And speaking of the Super Bowl, you’ll no doubt recall that the last post on this blog started with info on the Lowell Spinners us-against-the-rest of the New York-Penn League big game bet.

It was a sizable gamble, and the Spinners lost. Therefore, mascot Canaligator is in for a summer of abject humiliation.

Even more so than usual:

As for me, I’ll be “writing a blog…all summer long.” Don’t you forget about me.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

The Year in Ballpark Food, Part 1

I never set out to be a food blogger, and, really, I’m not. Nonetheless, food is a important component of the Minor League experience, and throughout my travels this past season I did my best to document ballpark comestibles in particular as well as regional cuisine in general.

Today’s missive (which went live at lunchtime for a reason) is the first of what will be a two-part compendium of the 2011 season’s food-based posts and photos. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section and via email: What are your favorite Minor League ballpark foods, and why?

What follow are some of mine, presented in the order in which they were consumed.

My first 2011 road trip began in Tucson, home of the T-Padres. And what better way to enjoy Kino Stadium’s sunset views than with a plate of nachos from ballpark vendor El Charro? Nothing too fancy, but the freshest of ingredients combined with from-the-oven homemade tortilla chips helped to distinguish this particular platter.

The following afternoon, a reader recommendation led me to local institution  El Guero Canelo. The specialty there is the “Sonoran Dog,” which I described as a “hot dog is wrapped in bacon and topped with cheese, salsa, onions, tomatoes, beans, mayonnaise and who knows what else. All of this was safely ensconced in the specially-crafted (and delicious) roll and served with a roasted pepper on the side.”

After a fleeting highway encounter with the still-elusive Biz Girl, I made my west to territories occupied by the California League’s South Division entities. One of the highlights of this leg of the journey came in Lancaster, where I was able to enjoy a non-photo shopped encounter with the JetHawks’ delectable “Sweet Po-Tater Tots.”

Maple Syrup Dipping Sauce!

The Sweet Po-Taters were a mere appetizer, for then came the so-called “Stealth Burger:” a hamburger topped with pulled pork and onion rings. It was a formidable affair:

There's a burger under there, promise.

The Stealth Burger looked downright microscopic in comparison to the Brobdingnagian creation that was served to me in Lake Elsinore. Behold the Storm’s “Homewrecker,” perhaps best explained in t-shirt form.

Suitable for sharing

The following month I traversed the great state of Ohio (with a detour in Fort Wayne, IN). The first stop on this particular Minor League journey was Toledo, where appropriately-named concessions manager Corey Pleasant laid out a stunning pre-game feast.

Here we have Greek Nachos (gyro meat and pita chips), Pulled Pork Nachos, and “Bases-Loaded Fries.”

But that, of course, was not all. Here’s the “Muddy Dog,” topped with chili, cheese, and onions.

And this artisanal creation is the “Bloomin’ Bacon Burger,” a 1/3 lb. grilled Black Angus beef burger topped with crispy strips of bacon, deep fried onion rings, American cheese, and bistro sauce on a fresh Kaiser bun.

And, of course, no visit to Toledo is complete without a stop at the legendary Tony Packo’s.  I visited the Birmingham location before heading west to Fort Wayne, ordering a hot dog with chili, Paprika Dumplings, and a side of “Pickles and Peppers.”

After Toledo, I attended two ballgames at the Fort Wayne TinCaps’ Parkview Field. The majority of the second evening was spent with culinary director Scott Kammerer, who gave me a thorough tour of the team’s concession offerings. The tour resulted in an MiLB.com article, as well as this stunning image:


In addition to the hallucinogenic turkey leg seen above, highlights included delectable brisket sandwiches…

Philly-style cheesesteaks…

and a hot dog with “Cincinnati Chili” (the TinCaps’ best attempt to emulate the famous Skyline recipe).

The TinCaps are named after Johnny Appleseed’s iconic headwear, so this Apple Dumpling dessert was a fitting (and inspired) addition to the menu.

From Fort Wayne, I made my way back to the Buckeye State in order to visit the Lake County Captains. Food took a back seat to on-field participation during this jam-packed visit, but this was where I first became aware of the Cleveland-area phenomenon that is “Bertman Ballpark Mustard.”

Bertman’s Mustard: Responsible for the most delectable condiment globules around.

From Lake County it’s a veritable hop, skip and a jump to Mahoning Valley. It was Opening Day for the short-season Scrappers, and I celebrated the return of New York-Penn League baseball with the one-of-a-kind “Warsaw Wings.”

Deep-fried pierogies smothered in hot sauce!

A necessary cool-down soon came in the form of Handel’s Ice Cream. The flavor was called “Scrappy’s Favorite” — caramel ice-cream with bone-shaped chocolate-covered pretzels.

The Ohio excursion ended in Akron’s Canal Park, a location not lacking in death-taunting culinary options. After an exhausting evening that included a pie in the face and a stint in a dunk tank, I had both the following items placed before me.

On the left is the “Nice 2 Meat U Burger,” two 1/3rd pound patties, two hot dogs, bacon, cheese, and onions.

The sauerkraut-covered creation on the right is the “Three Dog Night,” a hot dog stuffed inside a brat stuffed inside a kielbasa.

And, let’s not forget: Bertman Mustard on top of it all!

Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2 of this food-based season retrospective, featuring a bevy of offerings from South and North Carolina as well as the doom metal capital of the world (the state of Maryland, in other words).

Until then, send me your photos and anecdotes related to your favorite ballpark foods and regional creations. I’ll be right here waiting for you.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

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