Hefferon: Baseball serves up full plate
Jack Hefferon | Tuesday, April 1, 2014
In the pantheon of American sports, baseball certainly can’t lay claim to being the most action packed. Games dawdle along over summer days and nights, players stand around for seconds and minutes between pitches and half-innings and it’s the only sport I can think of where walking is applauded.
However, baseball is, undoubtedly, the gastronomical king of the American sports (sorry Kobayashi, slurping hot dogs doesn’t quite qualify here). And when the umpire yells “Batter up!,” on opening day celebrations across the country this week, plenty of fans will belly up to the nearest concession stand to get some ballpark classics.
One report estimated that roughly 20 million hot dogs are consumed in major league stadiums in a given year. And while a decline in ticket sales and a lingering recession have caused many fans to tighten their belts, there are still plenty of new, gut busting stadium foods this season for the fan who thinks they have just a little too much room in their arteries.
In Arizona, for instance, the Diamondbacks introduced the D-Bat Dog on their opening day. An 18-inch corn dog stuffed with cheddar cheese, jalapenos and bacon, the dog costs merely 25 dollars, several weeks off your life and most of your dignity.
Sometimes, and especially for small-market teams, the food can be more of a draw the on-field action itself. The Tampa Bay Rays, who traditionally play their games in front of a crowd of empty green seats, have solved that problem through their food itself. Enter a full four-pound bacon cheeseburger, served on a tray roughly the size of The Observer you’re holding in your hands. Any fan who can finish the colossal burger (and a pound of fries, for good measure) will be rewarded with two regular season tickets and a t-shirt.
Some of these concession monsters are more inspired. After their off-season signing of Shin-Soo Choo, the Texas Rangers unveiled the Choomongous, a 24-inch long Asian beef sandwich. And at Miller Park in Milwaukee, fans stay true to their Wisconsin sensibilities: Miller is the only MLB park where more sausages are sold than hot dogs.
The food doesn’t merely stay outside the lines, either. Baseball is a sport that can be played while chewing gum, spitting sunflower seeds or stuffing jaws full of tobacco (ingestion not recommended). When one batter steps up to the plate, another one readies himself to be next at the dish. Pitchers may bring the high cheese, but if the batter knocks it out of the park, he might have just a little too much hot dog in his jog around the bases (looking at you, Manny). There’s snow cones and sliders, and the occasional can of corn.
An afternoon at a major league park is the definition of summer to many, and it takes on the relaxed pace of an old-fashioned barbecue. It’s the perfect combination of pastimes for a country we’re told regularly is overweight; after all, what could be more American than watching someone work out while enjoying an 18-inch corn dog? The pursuit of a Derek Jeter-like physique can be left to those making millions – but us amateurs can always chase that Prince Fielder build. (Although, to be fair, Fielder switched to a vegetarian diet several years ago and has since dropped some weight off his enormous tummy).
There’s a reason that “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” is all peanuts and Cracker Jack, and 20 million fans willing to buy overpriced frankfurters certainly speak for themselves.
Baseball may no longer be the king of American sports. But it will always be the Top Dog.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.