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This is Rich Wofford. On Sunday, May 8, Rich and his family attended a Greenville Drive game at Fluor Field so that he could serve as my designated eater (you know, the individual who consumes the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits.
The above photo was taken outside of an empty Fluor Field suite, where myself, Rich, his family, luxury suites executive chef Rob Hansen and food and beverage manager Kyle May convened for a few innings of food-based reverie.
I’ve mentioned Rich’s family twice already, so I’ll briefly jump ahead in the narrative in order to show a picture of the Wofford clan on the cusp of dessert. From left to right, we have Colton (3), Charlotte (4), Rob, Calum (six months) and Dovie.
The Woffords live in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Rob works as an accountant for a non-profit organization, while Dovie has a full-time job and then some in her role as stay-at-home mom. (She takes care of “the rats,” as Rob lovingly put it.) This all took place on Mother’s Day, so a happy belated Mother’s Day to Dovie.
Rich is originally from Greenville. He met Dovie while living in Arizona, and moved back to South Carolina three years ago. Despite growing up in Atlanta Braves country, Rich is first and foremost a Boston Red Sox fan. He said that the Sox were his father’s favorite team, and though it was never pushed upon him he nonetheless became a fan during a time in his youth when the Braves “were in a stretch of terrible years.” Rich is also a big fan of Cal Ripken, and said that “Calum” is as close as he could get to convincing Dovie to name one of their children “Calvin.”
The Drive are a Red Sox affiliate, so Rich is particularly enamored with his hometown Minor League team. He said that he and the family attend about seven games a year, watching approximately three innings “before we go to the playground.”
Today, the playground could wait. There was eating to do.
The above spread was laid out for Rich by Drive food guys Hansen and May. We’ll cover each one individually, but we’ll begin with something not included in the above picture: The Hot Tot.
Have at it, Rich.
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) May 8, 2016
“It’s a good ballpark hot dog,” said Rich. “There’s not a lot of hot in the tot, but the taters add a nice crunch on the top.”
Charlotte then took a bite.
“It’s good!” she said. “I kind of like the spice.”
Charlotte’s favorite color is pink and her favorite team is (surprise) the Red Sox. After answering these queries she momentarily got distracted by a talking dog video on the scoreboard, but quickly regrouped. The talking dog video had reminded her of her pets — Dribbles the hamster and Dudley the dog — though, unfortunately, “all of them died.” She then went on to tell me that her favorite player is Dustin Pedroia and that if she had all the money in the world she’d buy a Belle dress (Belle being a Disney princess character).
Our interview concluded with me asking Charlotte “What’s the funniest thing that ever happened in your life?” She had an answer at the ready:
“When Daddy said ‘Pull my finger!'”
Rich broke out into peals of embarrassed laughter and immediately asked that this remark be stricken from the record. However, being a brave and honest man, he later consented to have his daughter’s delighted account of his finger-pulling request documented within the public sphere.
Anyhow, we were talking about the Drive’s ballpark food options.
This “Triple Crown” slider platter — available in the 500 Club restaurant/bar/group area — was constructed with aplomb. From left to right we have (if my notes are correct) the “Chef”, the “Big Hurt” and the “Sultan of Swat.”
The Chef, consisting of bacon, cheese and green peppers, was Rich’s favorite. He said that it was an “excellent burger” because the “meat was perfect” and overall it was an excellent combination of ingredients. The Big Hurt — topped with fried jalapenos — got lower marks because it was “spicy, very spicy, to the point where I don’t taste the burger.”
The Sultan of Swat, topped with fried green tomatoes, red onions and pimento cheese, was the most interesting looking of the bunch.
Rich was underwhelmed, however.
“There was lots of onion taste, and that’s pretty much it on that one.”
Next, we classed up the joint by tasting the seared tuna (available at the suite level). The tuna, spiced up with a creole-style seasoning, was served atop a bed of greens and accompanied by a sesame ginger sauce and a jicama slaw.
“If you’re not familiar with jicama, it’s a vegetable kind of like an unripe pear. Pretty mild as far as texture goes,” explained Hansen. “[The slaw] has yellow pepper, red pepper, fresh mint and strawberry.”
I probably ate more of the tuna than anybody. In my notes it says that there is a “Nice spice on the edges. The tuna is tender and the flavor radiates outward.”
Rich said that the tuna was “not what I’d expect to eat at a ballpark, but if I found it I’d eat it. The [sesame ginger] sauce has a nice heat that goes away quickly.”
From the perspective of the Wofford family, the best was most definitely saved for last: Xangos.
Xangos is (are?) fried cheesecake. The Drive’s version, a “sweet” level specialty, is dusted with cinnamon sugar and served with a chocolate dipping sauce. It got a 100% Wofford approval rating, summed up by Rich’s assessment that “I don’t know how to describe it other than ‘perfect.'” It even put a momentary stop to Calum’s crying, leading Rich to deem it a “baby husher.”
The dessert based reverie could only last so long, as Calum, though no longer crying, summarily threw up on Rich.. Assessing himself as his family prepared for departure, he noted “This would definitely be the ‘after’ picture. I’m covered in chocolate sauce and baby barf.”
The Wofford family then left the suite, moving on to their far more familiar playground environment. There, the kids would find swings to swing upon, slides to slide upon and, hopefully, fingers to pull upon.