This season, my “On the Road” blog posts from each ballpark I visit will be split up into several installments. To see all of my posts from this visit to the Bradenton Marauders, click HERE. To see all of the posts from my April 2015 Florida trip, click HERE. To see all of my “On the Road” posts (going back to 2010), click HERE.
As many of you know, in 2012 I was diagnosed with celiac disease. Therefore, I recruit a designated eater at each ballpark I visit, and this individual is tasked with eating the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits. At the Bradenton Marauders’ home of McKechnie Field, this individual was a man by the name of Joe Mynaugh.
Hey, Joe. Where ya going with that bun in your hand?
Joe is no stranger to the world of Minor League Baseball. He grew up in Aberdeen, home of the New York-Penn League IronBirds, and served as the team’s bat boy during the 2008-09 seasons. (I forgot to ask him what it was like to witness Tim Spooneybarger’s comeback attempt.) He moved to Florida last year so that he could work as a groundskeeper at Sarasota’s Ed Smith Stadium (Spring Training home of the Orioles). Currently, he is employed by Sarasota County. He is a Bradenton Marauders season ticket holder — $300 covers the cost of all 70 home games, and he is also able to attend the team’s road games for free.
“I work on a field during the day, and in the evening I just sit back and watch,” said Joe.
But this evening, Joe wouldn’t be sitting back and watching. No, he’d be wandering around with me and eating. The Marauders — and this is common throughout the FSL — generally stick to the basics when it comes to ballpark cuisine. Nonetheless, we carefully considered our options at the Pirates Cove Grill and The Pitt Stop.
In the end, Joe opted for the most unique — and, at $10 — most expensive item on the menu: a pulled pork sandwich with mac and cheese provided by regional chain Sonny’s BBQ.
Under Joe’s careful eye, two quickly became one.
Designated Eater checks in, Bradenton Marauders. https://t.co/b5I6FACVGB
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) April 11, 2015
“It’s restaurant quality and it’s good,” said Joe. “The pulled pork is nice and sweet, real meaty, it’s not all sauce. The BBQ overpowers the mac and cheese a lit bit, though. It’s just along for the ride.”
Joe also suggested that the Marauders dip further into the Sonny’s BBQ menu by offering their “Red Neck Egg Rolls“: egg rolls stuffed with pulled pork, cole slaw and jack cheese.
Joe washed down his sandwich with a pilsner from Rivertowne Brewery, a company that, like the Pirates, has roots in Pittsburgh and has since expanded into Florida.
Joe said that while he is usually skeptical of craft beers, this one tasted like Blue Moon and was “pretty smooth.”
Even smoother was dessert, an “almost world-famous” Orange Swirl from Bradenton-based Mixon Fruit Farms.
“It actually tastes like an orange; it’s ice cream and not sherbet,” said Joe. “And that little spoon really makes the meal.
And with that, Joe disappeared into the Florida night. The only proof of his existence was the ice cream-stained boardwalk planks that he left behind.
Thanks, Joe, for being the first designated eater of the 2015 season. Your service is appreciated.