Results tagged ‘ designated eater ’

On the Road: Father, son and lobster in Portland

To see all posts from my September 4, 2015 visit to the Portland Sea Dogs (this is Part Three) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my August/September 2015 trip through New England, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

Embden, a small town in central Maine, is surrounded by the Kennebec and Carrabassett Rivers. The town’s website declares that its current population is an estimated 939 people, who are “proud of our history and optimistic about our future.”

I met two of those proud and optimistic people at the Sept. 4 Portland Sea Dogs game: Erik Carey and his 11-year-old son, Luke.

047Embden is over 100 miles north of Portland; one would think that would be a prohibitive distance for Erik and Luke to travel on a regular basis. But if one would think that, then one would think wrong.

Erik and Luke are Sea Dogs season-ticket holders, who regularly make the long drive to Hadlock Field together.

“My wife has been to one game, my daughter has been to one. I think Luke and I have been to about 30,” said Erik, an eighth-grade teacher with 20 years of experience in the education field.

On these frequent father and son excursions to Hadlock Field, Dad drives while his son reads. These trips are so long and so frequent that Luke was able to read the bulk of the entire Harry Potter series while riding alongside his dad on trips to and from the ballpark.

On this particular evening, Erik and Luke varied up their Sea Dogs routine by serving as my designated eaters (you know, the individuals recruited to consume the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits).

We began at the Shipyard Brew Pen, located at the far end of the third-base line.


Shortly after we arrived in the area, there was a commotion behind us — shouts, squeals, nervous glances toward the sky and the sound of uncertain footsteps.

A foul ball was headed our way!

Erik dove for cover, but Luke kept his eyes on the prize. The ball bounced off of the asphalt and onto the roof of the Brew Pen, whereupon it rolled straight down and into Luke’s waiting hands.

Congratulations to Luke, the first-ever designated eater to snag a foul ball.


The Shipyard Brew Pen sells lobster rolls, and when in Maine, you’ve gotta get a lobster roll. Right?

The Sea Dogs’ lobster rolls are provided by Beal’s Lobster Pier.


Now it was Erik’s time to shine.

“This is pretty good…” Erik began.

“But not as good as my catch!” interrupted Luke, still psyched to have snagged an official game-used Eastern League ball. But back to Erik:

“Uh, um, uh, there’s so much pressure,” he said, searching for a way to describe the lobster roll. “Let me take one more bite.”

043“Does it taste like an egg salad?” asked Luke.

“No…” said Erik, still at a loss for words. He and Luke then commiserated briefly, using teamwork to come up with the following lobster roll description:

“The creaminess of the lobster melds well with the crunch of the bread.”

Erik, like the lobster, was now on a roll.

“The best part is that that the meat is not rubbery, and the sauce, there’s just enough,” he continued. “I’m really getting the lobster taste, not the mayonnaise.”

“Hey, you’re doing good!” said Luke.

“Yeah. Thanks, Buddy.”

For dessert, it was my duty to procure Luke and Erik a Muddy Biscuit from a concourse concession stand such as this.


New for the 2015 season, the Muddy Biscuit is a chocolate-dipped variation of the Hadlock Field treat known as the Sea Dog Biscuit: Shain’s of Maine vanilla ice cream served between two chocolate chip cookies.

Luke, introducing the Muddy Biscuit:

Like father, like son.

046Luke is no stranger to Sea Dog Biscuits and Muddy Biscuits, estimating that he’d had about “40 or 50” of them this season.

“This makes me sound like a bad parent,” said Erik. “Just wait until Mom reads this. … See, it’s not the cost of the travel down here. It’s not the cost of the tickets. I’m getting crushed by him at the concession stand.”

Luke wasn’t phased by his Dad’s accusations. He was lost in a dessert-based reverie.

“Would you say that the cookies and the ice cream complement one another? I’d say they do.”

“I don’t know,” replied Erik, before deciding that Luke’s Muddy Biscuit hypothesis was dead on. “It’s the perfect combination of a baked good and ice cream. Separate they are awesome, but when you put two great things together, you can’t go wrong.”

This sounded like an analogy for the father-and-son relationship — “When you put two great things together, you can’t go wrong.” Seeking to give Erik a rare upper hand in the dialogue, I asked Luke, “On a scale of 1-10, how thankful are you that your Dad takes you to these games?”

After much hemming and hawing, Luke grudgingly replied “10.”

“See, he doesn’t want to say anything nice about me,” said Erik. “Because he knows that I’ll remind him at the most inopportune moment.”

Note: My 2015 “On the Road” blog posts and articles are now finished. Thanks to everyone who followed along, and please feel free to get in touch any time about anything. Now the offseason truly begins. I’m going on vacation.

On the Road: The Kids are Alright in Vermont

To see all posts from my July 11, 2015 visit to the Vermont Lake Monsters (this is Part Three) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my August/September 2015 trip through New England, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

As mentioned previously, my visit to Burlington, Vermont to see the Lake Monsters was not part of my end-of-season New England road trip. It was a standalone visit that took place on July 11, which I have since shoehorned into my larger New England narrative.


Centennial Field, home of the Vermont Lake Monsters. July 11, 2015

When in Vermont I stayed in neighboring Hinesburg with my cousin, Ali, her husband Jim, and their two kids Jason and Becca. (I call Ali my cousin, but her Mom and my Dad are cousins so technically I think we’re “first cousins once removed.” And her kids are, what? Second cousins once removed? It gets confusing really quickly.)

Ali, Jason and Becca accompanied me to July 11’s Lake Monsters game at Centennial Field, and I recruited the latter two to serve as my designated eaters (you know, the individuals recruited to consume the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits.)

Jason and Becca were joined in this endeavor by Jason’s friend, Devon. Jason and Devon are in fifth grade, while Becca is in second grade. Let’s meet them:

Centennial Field is the oldest stadium in Minor League Baseball (the grandstand was built in 1922, but games have been played there dating back to 1906). Operationally speaking, the Lake Monsters don’t have the capabilities to offer a wide array of outlandish and/or regionally specific items (the bread and butter of most of my food posts).

Furthermore, my designated eaters, being kids, did not have the most sophisticated palettes. They wanted the basics anyway, and the Lake Monsters are adept at providing the basics.

029Thus, we have Jason with a double cheeseburger…

034…Becca with a personal cheese pizza…

033…and Devon with a foot-long hot dog.

035This was all taking place within the picnic area located down the third base line.

036Let’s begin with Jason’s double cheeseburger, which he had kept in a pristine, condiment-free state:

030“I don’t like ketchup or mustard,” said Jason. “Mustard tastes weird. And I don’t like relish. I just don’t like it.”

He was far more charitable toward the cheeseburger itself, remarking that “It’s good. The cheese is actually melted and the bun is good, too. A double burger may sound like a lot, but it’s actually the perfect amount.”

As for what food he’d like to see at the ballpark, Jason said that it’d be great if the Lake Monsters sold Moe’s tacos. He then recanted this sentiment, wisely stating that “I take it back. I don’t want chains, I want people to know about local restaurants. So how about Public House? They have good baseball food, I think.”

Our focus then turned toward Becca’s pizza.


Becca, in this case, was a second-grader of few words.

“I think it’s really good,” she said. “The sauce is really good.”

She then added that her ideal ballpark food would be “Strawberry and chocolate donuts, and maybe even some coconuts.”

Becca might be the first kid in the history of kids to like coconuts.

Finally, we have Devon’s foot-long hot dog. Like his buddy Jason, Devon eschews condiments. Perhaps this is why they are friends.

031“I like ketchup but only on fries,” said Devon, seeking to clarify that he did not have an across-the-board anti-condiment philosophy. “This is the longest hot dog I’ve ever seen. I wish that on ‘Hot Dog Heaven Day’ [when the Lake Monsters sell hot dogs for a quarter] they would launch these into the stands.”

As for how the hot dog tasted, Devon offered a single word in response: “Good.” He then explained that his ideal ballpark food would be “Pizza and then edible baseballs. Like, a sphere cake, vanilla, with white frosting and red stitches.”

“They could call it ‘Cake Me Out to the Ballgame,'” I said in response. This was followed by an unamused silence.

Edible baseballs were not available as a dessert option. But Chesster’s ice cream cookie sandwiches, a Vermont convenience store staple, were agreed by all to be an acceptable alternative.

037Becca, Jason and Devon ate in unison.

038“The cookies are really good. They’re not hard and they don’t crumble,” said Jason.

“They’re really good with the creamy ice cream in the middle,” added Becca, who, for the record is also capable of making a funny face while eating a Chesster’s ice cream cookie sandwich.

039With the designated eating complete, I asked Devon, Jason and Becca how they would rate the experience on a scale of “One to 275,550.”

Devon: 2,700

Jason: 4/5ths.

Becca: What was the highest number again? [I told her.] Okay, that.

Alright, then. Any final words before we wrap this up?

Becca: Kids ruin everything. Except me. I’m awesome.

Jason: I would recommend going to Vermont if you’re close by. Except for Essex. Don’t go to Essex.

[Note: Jason and and Devon are on the same hockey team, and Essex is their biggest rival.] 

Devon: If you’re near the Vermont Lake Monsters stadium and they’re in town, then you should go.

I couldn’t have said it any better myself, Devon. Centennial Field is a good place to eat, and a better place to see a baseball game.


On the Road: On Your Mark, Basnett, Go!

To see all posts from my September 2, 2015 visit to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (this is Part Three) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my August/September 2015 trip through New England, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

At every ballpark I visit, I recruit a designated eater. This individual is tasked with consuming the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits. At Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, the home of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, that individual was Mark Basnett.

025Mark, an only child born on Christmas Eve, is 12 years old, in seventh grade and lives in Manchester. On the day I met him, the school year had just begun and he was none too happy about it. I think we all know the feeling.

“Trust me, summer is fun,” he said. “When summer’s over it’s like, ‘Boo.’ I don’t want to go back to school.”

Mark, who is autistic, is a regular attendee at Fisher Cats games along with his mom, Kristin. She explained in an email that “He is 12 and typically doesn’t like me around. You know, because I’m Mom.” Accordingly, Mark and I embarked on our designated eating adventures together while Kristin stayed and watched the game from her seat in front of the first base dugout.

I really enjoyed getting to know Mark, and think that you will as well. So, before we move into the meat of the post (so to speak), here are a few facts about Mark.

Favorite Food: Hamburgers “I eat them almost all of summer vacation. They’re my favorite with regular mustard. I hate honey mustard.”

Favorite Drink: Diet Coke “I love it.”

Favorite Restaurant: 99. “It serves good meals.”

Favorite (or at least most unique) Dessert: “One time for Halloween my Mom and Dad and I made a Jolly Rancher sour apple. My Dad melted the Jolly Rancher in a pan. It tasted really good.”

Favorite Movie: Pixels Because it’s like a real-life video game.”

Favorite Book: Diary of a Wimpy Kid “Because it looks hand-drawn. Maybe it is.”

Most Fun Thing He Ever Did: “Go on a Disney cruise. It was in Florida, and it sailed to different places. At the halfway point of the trip it turned around and sailed back.”

Okay, now it’s time to eat. The Fisher Cats have a variety of food choices at their concourse concession stands.

015Mark wasn’t too interested in expanding into uncharted food territory and the Fisher Cats’ concessions generally emphasize the staples anyway. So we stuck to the basics, and started with a cheeseburger.

Burgers, after all, are Mark’s favorite food.

026“Well, it only has cheese and mustard on it,” said Mark. “And meat. And two buns and that’s it.”

A closer look reveals that Mark’s assessment was correct.


“The best cheeseburger is hot sauce and mustard,” Mark elaborated. “But there is no mustard on pizza, because that would be weird.”

Where there’s thunder, there’s lightning. And where’s there’s a cheeseburger, there are fries.

028“I eat fries like a normal human,” explained Mark. “Sometimes I lick the salt off my fingers, which some people think is weird.”

I don’t think that’s weird, Mark. I do the same thing.

030As mentioned earlier, Mark loves Diet Coke. So, of course, he just had to wash down the burger and fries with his favorite beverage.

031“Every time I take a sip of Diet Coke it makes the tears run down my eyes,” said Mark. “The Diet Coke tastes a lot more diet-y than the regular Coke does….Oh, man. I’m hiccuping already.”

I then asked Mark if he was interested in obtaining some dessert. He was.

“Could I have some chocolate chip ice cream? Mom and I once tried to figure it out, how not to spill it, because it was so full.”

That was Mark’s set-up. And here’s the punch line:

“You know what else is gonna be full in 15 minutes or so? This, right here.”

Mark was pointing to his stomach.

So off to the ice cream man it was. The Hood’s ice cream man, specifically. They did not have vanilla chocolate chip ice cream, so Mark had to settle for mint.


Mark, who managed not to spill this oversized offering, said that “the mint is the reason why its minty, and the chocolate chips are the reason that its chocolate chipity.”


And that was it for Mark’s designated eating experience. He thoughtfully insisted on bringing the leftovers to his Mom, explaining that “Now Mom’s kinda gonna be the designated eater.”

And, 12 years old or not, seventh grader or not, he seemed very happy to see her. The feeling was mutual.

035Thanks, Mark. And thanks, Kristin. It was great meeting you both.

Eating Blount and Sipping Del’s in Pawtucket

To see all posts from my September 1, 2015 visit to the Pawtucket Red Sox (this is Part Three) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my August/September 2015 trip through New England, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

The longest baseball game in professional history was played at Pawtucket’s McCoy Stadium. The 33-inning affair began on April 18, 1981, continued into the wee hours of the 19th and was finally, mercifully, completed on June 23. Undoubtedly, this was the most monumental event to ever take place at McCoy Stadium.

The second-most monumental event occurred on September 1, 2015. On that evening, as the PawSox played the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, one Brian O’Connell served as my designated eater.


All designated eaters should have credentials

As designated eater, it would be Brian’s task to consume the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits. As you can see from the above picture, he’s in good shape and doesn’t appear to be the sort of guy who gorges himself on concession stand fare. But he was up for the challenge.

“I’ve got no issues with it at all,” he said. “I ate healthy earlier today, so no worries.”

Brian is a Providence native who now lives in nearby Swansea, Massachusetts. He works out of Providence as a legal admin, and is also a soccer journalist whose work appears on the the website (In my notes this read “,” which would be a good resource for those curious about game times and what not).

Brian’s soccer fandom came about later in life, but he’s been a baseball fan since birth. He played throughout his childhood, and started attending games at McCoy Stadium from the time he was seven years old. He was an intern for the PawSox in 2001, and said that the craziest thing he witnessed that season was this immortal Izzy Alcantara meltdown:

When it comes to their food offerings, the PawSox are significantly less crazy than an enraged Izzy Alcantara. Eric Petterson, the team’s director of concessions, said that the basics are king. Hot dogs, supplied by Kayem, are the number one offering at concourse stands such as these.

020But with all due respect, hot dogs are boring. Brian and I, with crucial assistance from Eric, decided to highlight the PawSox’s regional specialties instead. We began with clam cakes, which Eric called “the quintessential New England fried food. And this is the quintessential way to serve it, in a white paper bag.”

040The clam cakes are supplied by Blount, a Rhode Island-based clam shack with four area locations. The only thing more quintessentially New England than eating Blount clam cakes out of a white paper bag is dipping said clam cakes into a cup of Blount clam chowder.

“It’s way better than the red New York chowder,” said Eric, provincially and accurately. “We started selling it three years ago.”

Brian was excited to try this time-honored combination.

“It’s a good pairing,” said Brian. “The crunch of the clam cakes to go with the thickness of the chowder. It’s like a sauce. One complements the other, perfectly.”

Brian washed down his clam combo with Del’s, a regionally-beloved brand of frozen lemonade. I’m not sure why he looks so concerned about doing this.

043 “Del’s is definitely a southeast New England thing, specifically a Rhode Island thing,” said Brian. “If there’s an official beverage of the state, then it would probably be Del’s. Well, that or coffee milk. I’ve been told that if you go across the state line and ask for coffee milk, they think you’re asking for milk in your coffee. You don’t have to venture far to find people who have never heard of it.”

I was intrigued by this tangent, as I had never heard of “coffee milk” either. And, sorry Del’s, but Wikipedia informs me that coffee milk actually is the official state drink of Rhode Island — “a sweetened coffee concentrate called coffee syrup [added] to milk in a matter similar to chocolate milk.”

We move on from that piece of information to a piece of pizza.

045PawSox pizza is supplied by Portland Pizza, which Brian called “an upgrade over Papa Gino’s.” I’ll let you Rhode Islanders out there (all couple dozen of you) argue that one out.

But no matter what the brand, it’s better to eat pizza off of a plate.


Despite being an upgrade over Papa Gino’s, Brian said that this slice “left a little to be desired.”

“It could have more flavor,” he said. “It could be a little zestier.”

We were gonna call it a night after the pizza, but Eric suggested that Brian eat some fries.

“Nothing’s number one in front of hot dogs, but the shoestring fries are a signature item,” he said. “You can get a lot for not a lot of money.”

049Brian’s appetite only seemed to be growing. He was a voracious eating machine.

050“The fries are always salty, but they’re some of the best around,” said Brian. “They’re crispy and light at the same time. But now I definitely need a drink.”

After taking a hearty swig of Del’s, Brian gave his final thoughts on the PawSox designated eating experience.

“It was great. I didn’t even know about the clam cakes and chowder. Blount’s is somewhat famous and I didn’t expect that it would be here. That was a good move. They are a super local staple.”

Oh, and speaking of super local staples, Brian suggested that the PawSox should offer the Rhode Island specialty that are Coney Island System hot dogs (also known as “New York System” or simply “Hot Wieners”).

“They’ve got to hire one of those guys who lines ’em all up on his arm.”

The future of PawSox concessions? Brian can dream.

Photo: huffingtonpost

Photo: huffingtonpost

On the Road: Fresh, Hot and Simple in Lowell

To see all posts from my August 31, 2015 visit to the Lowell Spinners (this is Part Three) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my August/September 2015 trip through New England, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

Let’s get this requisite introductory paragraph out of the way as quickly and painlessly as possible:

At nearly every ballpark I visited this season, I had a designated eater. These individuals, hardy souls with good appetites all, are tasked with consuming the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits. At LeLacheur Park, home of the Lowell Spinners, my designated eater was Joe Beauregard.

Joe is a real nice guy.

IMG_0453In addition to being a nice guy, Joe is a Lowell native who now lives in nearby Chelmsford. He works in the sporting goods industry, selling products to local youth sports programs, and is a big sports fan himself. He’s also a family man, and two of his three sons were with him at the ballpark: 13-year-old Joey and seven-year-old Braden. (Middle child Jared, 11, opted to stay home).

As for why he wanted to be a designated eater at a Lowell Spinners game, Joe’s answer was simple and inspiring.

“If there’s eating involved, then I can do it. I’ve got the size and I’ve got the ability. I’ve been training all of my life for this opportunity.”

Okay, but what to eat? When it comes to their concessions, the Spinners prefer to keep it simple. In the past they’ve offered regional specialties like lobster rolls and alluring grotesques such as the Homewrecker Hot Dog, but currently their strategy is to focus on the basics and to do the basics well.

In other words: Keep It Simple, Stupid.


The above picture of the Canaligator Cafe was taken earlier in the evening. But it was at this same concession stand — or one just like it — where Joe and I procured an array of food.


First up was the cheesesteak, which in Lowell is apparently called a “Steak and Cheese.” That, to me, is kind of like calling a hot dog a “Dog and Hot,” but whatever.

Steak and Cheese, so be it.

IMG_0447Have at it, Joe. This is your time to shine.

“It’s flavorful. There’s enough cheese and enough steak, so it’s a good steak and cheese,” said Joe, whose logic was impeccable. “I recommend it.”

Alright, then. So how ’bout some garlic fries?

IMG_0448“I like the garlic, it’s got some flavor,” said Joe, a man who likes flavor.

We also got an order of the spicy fries, which were — you guessed it — spicy. Seven-year-old Braden gave one a try, kinda sorta.

IMG_0455Braden looks pretty laid back in that photo, but the only quote I have from him regarding the Spicy Fry experience is anything but laid back: “Spicy! Water!”

Water procured, we then moved on to item number three: A slice of pizza.


Joe, declaring himself a “Chelmsford guy,” immediately pegged this as Sal’s Pizza. Sal’s is a Massachusetts-based chain.

“They do a nice job with North End [Boston], Sicilian-style pizza,” said Joe. “Their’s a Sal’s outside of Fenway, and one in the [TD] Garden.”


Sal, folding in front of the field.

Having recovered from his Spicy Fry experience, Braden posed for a pizza pic alongside his Pops. It turned out great.

IMG_0458Cheese and steak, check. Two kinds of fries, check. Slice from a regionally known pizza chain, check.

All that was left was dessert. For that, we obtained a serving of deep-fried Oreos from a concourse kiosk located behind home plate.

IMG_0459Joey, Joe and Braden. Beauregards enjoying a bite.

IMG_0460“I love the surprise in the middle — the Oreo!” said Joe, apparently forgetting that this item was clearly labeled as a Deep-Fried Oreo. “I mean, fried’s good anyway, but when you get the Oreo? Hello!”

Hello and goodbye, unfortunately, for once dessert is done then what else can there be? Thanks to Joe and his small entourage of friends and family for an enjoyable couple of innings at the ballpark, sampling  the best of the basics.


An Eponymous Burger and Whiz Wit Everything in Connecticut

To see all posts from my August 29, 2015 visit to the Connecticut Tigers (this is Part Three) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my August/September 2015 trip through New England, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

This guy, his name is Paul Woodin. He’s standing on the concourse of Dodd Stadium, home of the Connecticut Tigers, waiting for the Burger Barn to cook him a couple of burgers.

042While he waits, let’s get to know Paul a little bit. He lives in Norwich and works for a local submarine designer and manufacturer — a major employer in the area — doing pipe drafting, design and development.

“It’s just drawing on a computer,” he said, modestly.

Paul is also a big fan of the Connecticut Tigers. He estimates that he attends 25 of the team’s games each season often accompanied by his wife, Sarah, and daughter, Rayne. Paul and Sarah had their first date at a nearby New Britain Rock Cats game, and he later proposed to her atop the dugout at Dodd Stadium. They tied the knot at Dodd as well.

“We got married at home plate,” he said. “We played on the field that morning, and then I showered in the clubhouse.”

Paul was waiting for burgers at the Burger Barn because he was the evening’s designated eater (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits). The Burger Barn, which. predictably, sells burgers, was our first stop.


An array of burgers are available at the Burger Barn. Most of them are self-explanatory. Some aren’t. If you don’t know, you better ask somebody.


There was also a one-night only special, named in honor of — wait for it — me.

031The Ben’s Biz Burger consisted of bacon, habanero jack cheese and an onion ring atop a cinnamon bun.

043Now, some might consider this a form of cruelty — to name a burger after someone who has a medical condition that renders burgers (or at least burger buns) off-limits. Cinnamon buns are decidedly not gluten-free.

But I didn’t look at it like that. At my current level of initiative and accomplishment, nothing of substance is ever going to be named for me. There will never be a Ben’s Biz Bridge or a Ben’s Biz Ballpark, though one day I may undergo a Ben’s Biz Bypass. So I looked at the Ben’s Biz Burger as an honor, perhaps the pinnacle of my professional career.

046And this is why I have a designated eater in the first place, for crying out loud. So take it away, Paul.

“Oh my God! It’s so good! It’s the cinnamon bun!” exclaimed Paul. “The cinnamon bun and the onion both make it sweet.”

“The savory and the sweet work well together,” added Sarah, Paul’s wife, who couldn’t resist taking a bite.

“The frosting of the cinnamon bun, you can taste it more than the burger,” said Paul. “Maybe it needs ketchup.”

“No way,” replied Sarah, correctly.

Next up from the Burger Barn was “The Rabelo”, named after Connecticut Tigers manager Mike Rabelo. It’s a burger topped with American cheese and a split Italian sausage. And, unlike the Ben’s Biz Burger, its namesake can actually eat it!

045Extreme close-up.

048“I’m eating the manager,” said Paul as he directed the burger toward his maw.

049“It’s a meat lovers dream,” said Paul, after taking a bite of the manager. “It all flows really well, and the hot Italian sausage really gives it a kick. It sneaks up on you.”

The Burger Barn is located far down the first base line. Its third base counterpart is “Philly’s”, a ballpark outpost of a beloved Norwich cheesesteak purveyor.

This picture was taken earlier in the day, but it looked pretty much the same when we got there.

012Here’s a glimpse at the menu. I’ll tell you what — Philly cheesesteaks are one of the things I miss most now that I’m gluten-free. I also miss Reubens, fried chicken and not having to justify my food choices to people who shouldn’t care one way or the other.


Paul had just eaten two burgers, but no matter. He went for the Broad Street Bully aka “The Works.” As you can see from the above menu, the Broad Street Bully consists of rib eye steak, provolone, fried onions, mushrooms, sweet and hot peppers, pickles and Cheez Whiz. Oh, and extra rib eye steak.


052A closer look.

053If you’ve made a choice to eat The Broad Street Bully, then you’ve made a choice to get messy. Paul wisely positioned the sandwich container below him so that it would catch the inevitable spillage. This wasn’t his first rodeo.

055“It’s fantastic, really spicy. I can taste everything,” said Paul. “It was freshly made right in front of me, and now it’s falling apart everywhere. It’s nice to scoop up. It’s absolutely phenomenal and I pity you for not being able to eat this.”

Sarah soon joined in on the other end of the Broad Street Bully. This is true love right here, another chapter in a storied ballpark romance.

056Paul had had (more than) enough food at this point, so now it was time for an aperitif at the Tigers’ Retro Beer Bar. This is a haven for those who have eschewed the craft beer “revolution” and still prefer easy drinking domestics. Paul had Pabst Blue Ribbon, Ballantine Ale, Schaefer’s and Schlitz to choose from. He went with a PBR, which, if you drink enough of them, often leads to “blue ribbin'” at a baseball game. As in, an increased propensity to heckle the umpires.

Ah, nevermind. Have a beer, Paul.

058“It’s a nice refreshing drink on a little bit of a hot night,” said Paul.

And what else more could there be to say?

“I’m really full.”

On the Road: Gourmet Nachos and Hot Chicken in Nashville

To see all posts from my August 5, 2015 visit to the Nashville Sounds (this is Part Three) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my July/August 2015 trip through the Deep South, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

As mentioned in the previous installments of this series, the Nashville Sounds (Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland A’s) proudly serve the local specialty that is “Hot Chicken.”


They also serve a host of unique high-quality concessions at the “Band Box” in right field.

027028My designated eater — you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark food that my gluten-free diet prohibits — for this evening at First Tennessee Park was Tyler Glaser.

085 (more…)

On the Road: An Early Evening Late Night Snack in Jackson

To see all posts from my August 3, 2015 visit to the Jackson Generals (this is Part Two) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my July/August 2015 trip through the Deep South, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

The last time I visited the Jackson Generals, in June 2012, I ran a photo of myself holding a Yuengling beer. This photo, I remarked, had “a personal significance that I’ll explain at a later date.”


The “personal significance” was that this was the last beer that I ever ordered at a ballpark. Earlier that month I had been diagnosed with celiac disease; my late June 2012 trip through the South represented the last time that I would ever eat and drink at a ballpark without concern for said food and drink being gluten-free. The following month I ran a post announcing that I had celiac disease, and the first “designated eater” (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark food that my gluten-free diet now prohibits) appeared on the blog at the tail end of that 2012 season.

I now have a designated eater at every ballpark that I visit. At August 3’s Generals game, that individual was a man named Bob Sanders.

030Bob, who works for a Memphis-based claims management company, is a life-long baseball fan who enjoys collecting autographs at Minor League games. His passion for this hobby began in the mid-’80s, when he would attend games at the Memphis Chicks’ home of Tim McCarver Stadium. (The Chicks moved to Jackson in 1998 and became the Generals.) Bob attended the ballgame along with Abigail, his 10-year-old daughter, and Barry, a friend, fellow autograph collector and former Memphis Chicks clubhouse manager.

Amid the usual array of ballpark staples, the Generals offer a few unique items. Most unique — and certainly the most outlandish — is “Sarge’s Late Night Snack.” This sandwich, named after the mascot’s alleged nocturnal food cravings, consists of a quarter pound burger topped with barbecue pork, bacon, Philly steak, and white queso.

“Sarge’s Late Night Snack,” added to the menu in 2015 by new manager of catering and concessions Eric Kormanik, is available at the concourse grill. It’s got a hefty price tag ($14, if my nearly indecipherable notes are to be believed), and the menu posted by the grill offers no details as to what it contains. You have to be very curious or already in the know, criteria that applies to all of the best things in life.

Here’s grillmaster Eric Spencer, standing in front of the array of meat that will soon become Sarge’s Late Night Snack.

026Eric said that he enjoys a “Sarge’s Late Night Snack” on occasion, though he can’t eat it in one sitting. He also doubts Sarge’s ability to eat his namesake item, since he “doesn’t move his mouth.”

After Bob hit the fixins bar, Sarge’s Late Night Snack was ready for its close-up.

029Have at it, Bob.

“It’s actually a pretty good combo. I’m serious,” said Bob. “You actually get the different flavors. The burger’s at the bottom, that’s the first taste, and then the other meats. Definitely, the cheese holds everything together. It makes it a lot easier. Though, this is not something that a dainty person should eat. It’s a manly meal.”

“He’s almost never impressed,” said Abigail, clearly surprised that her Dad was giving Sarge’s Late Night Snack a positive review. She then gave it a try herself.

032“Yum,” said Abigail.

Barry, Memphis Chicks clubbie turned Memphis-area teacher, was then persuaded to give Sarge’s Late Night Snack a try. He did so after Bob said something along the lines of “Hey, you’re single again, might as well get yourself out there.”

Indeed, this would make for an excellent online dating profile picture.

035“That’s pretty good,” he said. “The peppers and onions, that’s my first taste.”

Next up: Barbecue Nachos.

028Like the Sarge’s Late Night Snack, these nachos are another Eric Kormanik creation (not to be confused with Eric Spencer, grillmaster). Eric K. reports that the barbecue pork is courtesy of Jackson-based Cajun Cookers, who deliver the meat, already seasoned, in Cryovac bags.

Here’s Bob as he prepares to enjoy a nacho, with Eric standing proudly beside him.

039“It’s definitely more of a Southern barbecue flavor,” said Bob. “It’s not the Rendezvous [Barbecue Nachos, made famous by the Memphis Redbirds], but it’s a lot better than what Memphis has now. But I would like the option of dry rub.”

As a reference point, here’s a circa-2012 photo of the Memphis Redbirds’ famous Rendezvous Barbecue Nachos. These are the ballpark barbecue nachos against which all other ballpark barbecue nachos are judged.


Abigail sampled the nachos as well, offering a review even more succinct than her first.

040“When she ignores you and keeps eating, it’s generally a good sign,” said Bob.

Next, and last, was a bacon-wrapped pork chop on a stick served on a bed of beans, rice and sausage.

042I cannot confirm with complete certainty that the above item is gluten-free, as Eric was not sure about what was contained in the sauce. However, I could not resist giving this a try. Eat now, die later.

043The bacon-wrapped pork chop did not kill me, though perhaps it did bring me closer to death. My notes, barely decipherable as usual, report that the pork chop was a little dry, but that it “mixed well with the bacon, complementary flavors.” The beans and rice, meanwhile, were “well-spiced and flavorful.”

“Well-spiced and flavorful” — just like every post that I create for this, the greatest Minor League Baseball blog of all time. Thank you, as always, for supporting (or at least tolerating) the greatness.

On the Road: Keeping It Simple in Mississippi

To see all posts from my August 2, 2015 visit to the Mississippi Braves (this is Part Three) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my July/August 2015 trip through the Deep South, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

This is Steven Ericson, a geography professor at the University of Alabama and a big fan of Minor League Baseball.


I had known Steven for several years in the virtual realm, through Twitter (@geoSteven) as well as his baseball-centric “My Geography Lessons” blog. But it wasn’t until this August afternoon at TrustMark Park that I met him in physical form. He had made the trip from Tuscaloosa, Alabama to Pearl, Mississippi to serve as my designated eater (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits).

When it comes to concessions, the Mississippi Braves take an “only the basics” approach. In previous seasons they’d experimented with regional items like catfish sandwiches, but they didn’t sell well enough to justify the effort. So what Steven and I were left with on this scorching Sunday afternoon was an array of the familiar — hot dogs, burgers, pizza (from Domino’s) and the like.

022After much gnashing of teeth regarding how to make a bland situation interesting, we simply decided to take a “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” approach. Steven, therefore, ordered a hot dog ($3) and topped it with Heinz yellow mustard. He didn’t do a very good job in making it look appetizing, however. I was like “C’mon, dude. This hot dog is gonna appear on the internet!”

038Before sitting down to enjoy his hot dog, Steven and I had our photos taken at the iSnap machine installed on the concourse.

Steven has at it:

The quote that I have from Steven regarding his hot dog-eating experience doesn’t really make sense. Maybe I wrote it down wrong.

“It’s average,” he said. “A slice of Americana encased in Americana by enjoying a hot dog at a baseball game. But, yeah, it’s just a hot dog.”

As mentioned in the above Vine video, Steven had obtained an Oxford Brewing Company “Sorority Blonde Ale” along with his hot dog. I didn’t take a picture of it, but I did take a picture of Steven taking a picture of it. He was going to post his photo on Untappd, an app presumably named by a drunk person.

040“It’s very smooth and mellow, a very tasty beer,” said Steven, of the Sorority Blonde Ale. “But it’s not as good as Hipster Repellent IPA.”

Hipster Repellent IPA: a thing that exists.

A hot dog does not a blog post make — I have a crocheted saying to this effect hanging in my bedroom — so Steven and I headed back to the concession stands. The stand offering nachos in a full-size helmet was already closed, or “Na-closed,” as it were, so he opted for a gyro. That’s pretty unique, right? A gyro at a baseball game? We were trying our best.
043Steven, eating a gyro while standing alone on concrete.


Uh, that’s boring. Steven, how about you sing about your gyro to the tune of “Wind Beneath My Wings”?

“It’s really warm. Good. Hot,” said Steven, hopefully referring to the gyro. “A mix of lamb and fresh provolone cheese. It kind of tastes like a Philly cheesesteak in a pita.”

I, meanwhile, took the opportunity to purchase an M-Braves collector’s cup. I did this to placate the #cupdate fiends out there, who harbor an unceasing desire to gaze upon images such as these.

IMG_0129While Steven and I didn’t have too much to talk about on the food side of things, we did engage in an interesting discussion about the field of geography and how it relates to Minor League Baseball. After a while, I had a realization: Why not turn this conversation into an story? So I took out my phone, hit record on the voice memo, and conducted a formal interview. THIS was the result.

CaptureSteven Ericson, Mississippi Braves designated eater turned superstar. It could happen to you, it could happen to anyone. Life is unpredictable.

On the Road: Biscuits in Montgomery

To see all posts from my August 1, 2015 visit to the Montgomery Biscuits (this is Part Three) click HERE. To see all of the posts from my July/August 2015 trip through the Deep South, click HERE. To see ALL of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.

2015 “On the Road” landing page HERE!

First things first: The Montgomery Biscuits do indeed offer biscuits. Minor League Baseball is all about selling yourself.


The Biscuits’ biscuit options include those topped with jam, chicken biscuits, biscuits with gravy, and biscuits served with locally beloved Alaga syrup.  These, and all of the team’s food offerings, are provided by PSC (Professional Sports Catering), a Minor League Baseball-specific concessions company owned by Biscuits co-owners Sherrie Myers and Tom Dickson.

On hand to try these offerings was Joe Marcus, my designated eater for the evening (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits). Through the years, Joe had left multiple comments on this blog imploring me to visit Montgomery. So, when I finally did schedule a visit, I figured I’d give him the first crack at being designated eater. He accepted the offer, and so here we were.


Joe, a Montgomery native and radio business veteran, has long been a local baseball supporter. He said that one of his favorite memories is of seeing Knoxville Sox infielder Bucky Dent (yes, that Bucky Dent) hitting a game-winning home run in the 1972 playoffs against Montgomery. Upon further review, it appears that this home run was hit in the 1972 Southern League All-Star Game (played in Montgomery), but close enough.  43 years is a long time for a memory to stay completely accurate.

In more recent years (but still long ago), Joe served as the PA guy at the Montgomery Rebels’ home of Patterson Field. The Rebels played their last season in 1980, Montgomery then went without affiliated Minor League Baseball until the Biscuits arrived in 2004.

I met with Joe in the concourse-level Club Car Bar, where the Biscuits had prepared the following spread.

048 We started, of course, with the biscuits. These, specifically, were chicken biscuits.


Prior to meeting with Joe, he had warned me in an email that he and his friends would most likely be in “good form” this evening. And, indeed, he was. In this case, his “good form” extended to completely dismantling the biscuits immediately upon laying hands on them.


“I can see that Joe Marcus has been here,” said Joe’s friend, Mike, surveying the smashed pile of biscuits that Joe had instantaneously created.

Mike was flitting around the perimeter of the scene, barefoot, drinking a beer, completely uninterested in why his pal was being photographed with an array of food items. Joe, while molding the smashed biscuits into some sort of dough pyramid, made clear that he wished he’d been given a cheesesteak and now kinda seemed hesitant about this whole “designated eating” endeavor. Meanwhile, the Biscuits’ staffers involved with preparing and delivering the food receded far away from the action, giving off a vibe of “Uh, what’s going on here?”

But the show must go on, even if the energy’s off. Joe re-assembled the mess to the best of his mess re-assembling abilities, and the following Vine was created. I guess I thought it was all pretty funny at the time.

“It would have been better with Alaga Syrup,” said Joe, of what had once been a biscuit. “It’s good. It’d be better with some syrup.”

Next up was “The Gump,” a new offering for the 2015 season utilizing the Biscuits’ in-house barbecue. It consists of smoked pulled pork, cole slaw, cheese (pepper jack, I believe), onions and barbecue sauce. Apologies for the poor quality photo, as I was having trouble stage-managing the designated eating experience on this particular evening.

Joe took a bite and then warily held it out for closer inspection.
053“It’s a little heavy for a hot night,” said Joe. “It’s kind of a hybrid of grilled cheese and barbecue. I wouldn’t turn it down.”

And, indeed, he didn’t.

Seeking to give Joe a brief respite from his designated eating duties, I sampled a fresh strawberry smoothie that had been made at the team’s new smoothie bar. The thumbs up was more than a reflexive photo pose, as this smoothie was sweet (but not too sweet), fresh and natural. Just like me.

059Also, for the record, the Biscuits are now serving Chloe’s fruit pops. Gluten free! It melted before I got the chance to try it, however, providing yet another example of the ephemeral nature of all earthly matter.

055But back to Joe. Joe still had some nachos to eat.


These, specifically, are “Super Nachos.” Pork, chicken and beef were all part of the equation.

050 “This is my favorite,” said Joe. “As good as you’ll find at a mainstream Mexican restaurant, as opposed to the little places that are authentic.”

And that was about it for Joe, who was more than ready to abandon Ben’s Biz Blog in favor of the more familiar alliterative triumvirate that is ballgame, buddies and beer. When asked to sum up his designated eating experience, his answer was wistful and poetic.

“I’m glad someone remembered me,” he said. “I coulda been a contender.”


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