Yesterday’s culinary compendium included copious coverage of ballpark food and regional cuisine, focusing on trips I made to Arizona, California, Ohio and Indiana.
The journey continues today, with a heavy emphasis on what may have been my favorite road trip of 2011: the Carolinas. It all started at Joseph P. Riley ballpark, the home of the Charleston RiverDogs. This is a team that has provided me with plenty of food-based news items through the years (Homewreckers! Pickle Dogs! Pig On A Stick!), and I was excited to finally make my first visit.
The team was ready for me.
Not the best photo, I know, but hopefully indicative of the RiverDogs’ bountiful array of creative food options. Oh, and a Philly Cheesesteak Brat eventually made an appearance.
Here’s a better view of the top-loaded “Kitchen Sink Nachos,” which are served in a pizza box.
But I focused my efforts primarily on the Pickle Dog, making sure to grip the pickle firmly from the rear so that the hot dog would not slip out.
The next day I drove to Myrtle Beach (home of both the Pelicans and the Mermen), and en route I stopped for lunch at “Hog Heaven BBQ.” Apparently, what passes for heaven in the mind of a pig is an afterlife of eternal cannibalization.
Dismayed and confused by this concept, I instead opted for some crab.
I was admonished by various quarters for ordering seafood at a BBQ joint, and I understand those criticisms. But here in NYC a platter such as the above is (relatively) hard to come by, and I have no regrets. None!
I stayed with the seafood theme at that night’s Pelicans game, ordering up some fried clams.
The following afternoon, en route to Kinston, I went to a BBQ joint and actually ordered some BBQ. Bart’s was the name.
At Grainger Stadium that evening, I followed the recommendation of GM Ben Jones and ordered a Philly Cheese Steak, North Carolina style. “Magnifique!” is what I imagine a French fan of Carolina League baseball would say upon biting into the following:
Are there any French fans of Minor League Baseball out there? What a rare subset of fans that must be.
Much less rare is the sight of a Bojangles fried chicken joint in the state of North Carolina. As I was making my way from Kinston to Durham, I patronized the following establishment.
Being a man of perpetual movement, at that night’s Durham Bulls game I ordered a Doritos-brand “Walking Taco.”
That’s nacho typical taco, but it provided all the sustenance I needed until the following morning’s stop at Biscuitville.
Less than two hours later, I patronized another regional fast food chain: Cookout. I’ve since heard from many Cookout aficionados, all of whom insisted that milkshakes should be purchased. Duly noted, but this time around I ended up with a Cheerwine float.
One of the highlights of the following day’s travels was lunch at Zack’s Hot Dogs, a Burlington, N.C. institution.
Since I’m always a proponent of a balanced and healthy diet, the hot dog lunch was followed by a bologna burger at that evening’s Danville Braves game.
The last stop on the Carolina excursion was Winston-Salem. A pre-game meal was obtained a Bibb’s BBQ, located a proverbial hop, skip, and jump away from BB&T Ballpark (domicile of the Dash). And what a meal it was:
That’s about all she wrote from the Carolinas; but fortunately I was able to squeeze one more trip into the 2011 campaign: Maryland, home of the crab pretzel!
More specifically, the home of the cheese and crustacean-laden snack seen above was Aberdeen’s Ripken Stadium. But perhaps an even more anomalous ballpark treat is that which can be found at Hagerstown’s Municipal Stadium: pickled beet eggs!
The Hagerstown Suns experienced some drama this past season, when a light pole fell onto the field during a storm. This is where the light pole used to stand…or is it? Maybe this mark was made by a huge pickled egg!
Or maybe a huge Krumpe’s donut used to lie on that spot! After the game I went to nearby Krumpe’s Do-Nuts (open 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.) and picked up a few.
My trip, as well as my season of traveling, ended the next day in Delmarva. Needless to say, I did not leave Arthur W. Perdue Stadium on an empty stomach.
That was dinner, consisting of a “Chessie Dog” (half-pound frank with cheese, onions, peppers), Crab Dip (with three bread dipping sticks), and a Scrapple sandwich. But there’s always room for dessert, especially when it’s as appealing as the concoction known as “Sherman’s Gelati.”
And that, as they say, was that. I hope you enjoyed, or at least tolerated, this trip down recent memory lane. It provided me yet another opportunity to revive a season which is in actuality dead as the proverbial doornail, and for that I am grateful.
The Myrtle Beach Pelicans do not play in a typical Minor League market. Not by a long shot.
On the plus side, Myrtle Beach is a region inundated with tourists and therefore the team can market themselves to an ever-changing fan base with ample discretionary income. But, conversely, there is a lot of competition for that entertainment dollar (Helicopter Rides! Ripley’s Believe it or Not! The Carolina Opry!)
I mean, there was some sort of amusement park right outside of my hotel.
The Pelicans’ BB&T Coastal Field, built in 1999, fits right into the beachy environs.
Upon arriving at the stadium, I did a few player interviews with my trusty Flipcam. I realize these might not be the best, quality wise, but I do enjoy being able to get a sense of who the players are as people (and hope you do as well). And, almost to a man, they are very friendly and generous with their time. This go-round, I spoke with the uber-convivial trio of Barrett Loux, Jared Hoyer, and Robbie Ross.
And did you know that the Pelicans have three outfielders named Jared on their team? For the sake of obscure baseball fact junkies such as myself, I hope that one day they all play out there together at the same time.
But I digress. After talking to the players, I ran into my good friend Duffman.
Duffman was one of many costumed characters at the ballpark, as part of the Pelicans’ “Superhero” theme night. It was also, appropriately enough, Thirsty Thursday.
While the concourse was empty in the early going, the beer lines were packed.
And for good reason — time was a wastin’!
As part of the pre-game “festivities”, I did both a pre-game radio interview and then an on-field Q&A with Pelicans media relations director/radio announcer Tyler Maun. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — hearing your own voice on a delay over a stadium loudspeaker is a highly disconcerting experience.
Maun and I took turns making ridiculous faces.
The pre-game activities also included Catwoman interviewing a local baseball coach.
While outfielder Travis Adair took it upon himself to learn a new trade. Maybe he had wanted a better view of Catwoman?
Meanwhile, mascot Splash burst onto the field to a roar of applause.
During the exchange of the line-up cards, the umpires moderated a spirited debate between Pelicans manager Jake Wood and Blue Rocks skipper Brian Rupp about the proper way to wear one’s uniform pants.
Incidentally, after making my way back into the stands the mother of field umpire Ben Leake (on right) introduced herself to me and suggested that I do a piece on Minor League umpires. I told her that I already have — here it is, Mrs. Leake.
Once our country had been properly saluted, the game got underway. As I am wont to do in such situations, I commenced to wandering.
Sweet Carolina League All-Star game duds in the team store:
Business was booming at the “Pitcher’s Mound” and the “Bullpen Grille.”
Just past the Grille was this classic bit of Americana, the game within the game:
An ownership group led by Chuck Greenberg bought the Pelicans prior to the 2007 campaign, a transaction that led to a more creative and regionally appropriate ballpark atmosphere. For instance, what had once been bleacher seating down the right field line is now the “Contract Data Beach.”
Bleachers remain in left field, however.
But I’m a man of discerning tastes, disdainful of the hoi polloi. Therefore, I made my way to an ultra-exclusive seating area: the groundskeeper’s balcony perch overlooking right field.
While there, I interviewed noted turf-tender Chris “Butter” Ball. Read it on MiLB.com! Please!
To get to Butter’s lair, one must pass underneath the Pelican bullpen. I did so hastily, wary of the projectiles being endlessly spit forth from that particular area.
Having safely arrived back among the rabble, I ordered my dinner for the evening: a fried clam strip basket. I was told that the team has been offering a lobster sandwich this season, but Thursday was end of an eight-game homestand and they were nowhere to be found.
So fried clams it was.
The fried clam strips were great — perfect breading to clam ratio and possessing an excellent crispness. The fries, however, were a bit on the bland and mushy side.
And speaking of mushy (but never bland), I was then moved to order some boiled peanuts. In a nutshell: I love these things. Absolutely love ’em. When I was in Alabama last year I bought a microwavable pouch of boiled peanuts at a gas station, but in the northeast they’re next to impossible to find.
As I enjoyed the various comestibles, I took in some of the game (for a change).
The Pelicans’ staff did a great job with the Superhero theme throughout — a nice touch was that each home player was assigned a super hero scoreboard graphic and theme song.
While Superman was at-bat, Batman was in the stands and signing autographs galore. His energy never Wayne-d when it came to this task.
My attempts to document the nightly crab race were similarly blurry. My suggestion — add an elderly crab to the race and name him “Grandfather Claws.”
Green Crab did not win, but at least he got some face time with Poison Ivy.
More importantly, the home team ended up with a come-from-behind victory.
But as you are no doubt well aware, the end of a game does not mean the end of the evening. Deuce the canine mascot came out for a “victory lap,” and disappointed me by not even defecating once.
Deuce was followed by the post-game launch-a-ball…
which was followed by fireworks…
which was followed by kids running the bases.
Only then was it time to go home. And home, in this case, was located next to an endlessly pendulating pirate ship.