To see all of my posts from this visit to Roger Dean Stadium (this is Part Three) 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.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Florida State League food options are generally quite spartan. While many teams in the industry are known for their overstuffed culinary bombast, those in the FSL often adhere to an austere minimalism. The league is a Terry Riley in a sea of King Crimsons.
But enough with the alienating and indulgent references. I’m here to write — and you’re hear to read — about the food offerings at Roger Dean Stadium (home of both the Jupiter Hammerheads and Palm Beach Cardinals). Once Major League Spring Training is in the rear view, the facility tones downs its concession offerings considerably. This makes sense, because a typical Florida State League crowd is approximately 1/8th the size of those who flock to the stadium to watch the big leaguers play exhibition games in March.
On the night I was in attendance — April 14, for those keeping score at home — the Jupiter Hammerheads were in town. And my designated eater (you know, the individual recruited to eat the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits) was a young go-getter by the name of Stephen Goldsmith.
Stephen, a native of Princeton, New Jersey, is a senior at Boca Raton’s Lynn University. In fact, he’ll be graduating on Saturday (May 16) with a degree in sports management. (Lynn’s sports management program is run by professor Ted Curtis, a hands-on individual who annually brings groups of students to the Winter Meetings so that they may experience the machinations and maneuverings of the baseball industry firsthand. In this capacity, he and his students regularly makes appearances on this blog.)
This marked Stephen’s second game at Roger Dean Stadium. He said that he signed up to be a designated eater simply for the “chance to do something new when attending the ballgame.” Stephen will soon be garnering plenty of new baseball experiences, however, as upon graduating he’ll move to Ohio in order to begin an internship with the New York-Penn League’s Mahoning Valley Scrappers.
Our journey began in the quiet concourse of Roger Dean Stadium.
The Island Grill was the only game in town, concessions-wise.
The sky was the limit for Stephen, who was the beneficiary of this bit of front office largesse. When Ben Hill is in town, he gets “whatever he wants, all night long.” It says so in my rider.
We simply ordered everything that was on the menu: a “Dean Dog,” brat, “Super Nachos” and Italian sausage.
Have at it, Stephen:
Designated eater checks in, Roger Dean Stadium https://t.co/zZDtmtXoPR
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) April 14, 2015
Stephen was able to masticate so unselfconsciously because we were in a secluded area of the ballpark. The only people around were some kids having a catch.
Oh, and a couple of his friends were on hand as well. That’s Morgan Goldstein on the left and Zachary Umanski on the right, both of whom, like Stephen, attend Lynn University.
Umanski, for the record, has now made two appearances on this blog. I’m sure he’ll be putting this on his resume.
“I’m a big sausage fan. I’ve had a lot of sausage,” he said. “I think this one was cooked really well. The brat was really good, too, especially in the middle portion. Just a smooth taste, and the addition of the mustard makes it that much better. The Dean Dog, it was a regular hot dog. Usually I have a hot dog with mustard but I wanted to try it with ketchup. It tasted fine.”
As for the “Super Nachos”?
“Eh, they’re just nachos.”
Oh, and there was Carly’s Italian Ice for dessert — which I, for one, greatly enjoyed.
I’m not sure that Stephen enjoyed the Italian ice, however. He seemed to be in a state of deep regret.
“It was good, and very filling,” he said. “I would have liked my taste buds to have been more challenged, though, because I can get a hot dog on the street.”
Nearly a month has passed, so I hope Stephen is feeling a little better these days. And keep an eye out for him at the Mahoning Valley Scrappers’ home of Eastwood Field this season. His opinions on sausage are worth listening to.
To see all of my posts from this visit to the Jupiter Hammerheads (this is Part Two) 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.
I guess I should take a moment to find out why the town of Jupiter, Florida — where Roger Dean Stadium is located — came to be called “Jupiter.” That’s a pretty strange name for a town. I don’t think I’d ever spent time in a place named after a planet in our solar system (keep your jokes to yourself).
And, wow, this is an interesting explanation. Per Wikipedia:
The area where the town now sits was originally named for the Hobe Indian tribe which lived at the mouth of the Loxahatchee River, and whose name is also preserved in the name of nearby Hobe Sound. A mapmaker misunderstood the Spanish spelling “Jobe” of the Indian name “Hobe” and recorded it as “Jove”. Subsequent mapmakers further misunderstood this to be the Latin translation of the god Jupiter, and they anglicized the name from Jove to “Jupiter”.
Too bad. “Hobe Hammerheads” would’ve had a nice ring to it. So, here we are in Jupiter’s Roger Dean Stadium. While the first post in this series explored the backfields and clubhouses, now we’re in the stadium itself.
The above picture was taken from a camera well, from which Major League Spring Training games are filmed and then disseminated to the exhibition game-crazed masses. On the Tuesday evening I was in attendance, the media presence was sparse. Non-existent, even.
The press box gets packed during Spring Training, however. Especially when the Marlins were the home team, as approximately 30 reporters followed Ichiro’s every move.
I, however, am a reporter who follows no man. The only person I follow is whoever’s showing me the way to the mound so that I can throw out a ceremonial first pitch.
Just like in Dunedin the night before, I threw a perfect strike.
The player who caught my first pitch was outfielder Harold Riggins.
“Nice toss,” he told me. “I see you’ve been working.”
I’m now a Harold Riggins fan. He has the smiling-est headshot in Minor League Baseball.
It was now almost game time. Riggins and his cronies took the field for the singing of our National Anthem.
Especially on the concourse:
It was soon time for my to take my nightly RMS (requisite mascot shot). This one didn’t come out all that well. But please know that this is a shark. A shark named Hamilton R. Head.
Usually I’m the one pestering people at the ballpark. It’s basically my job. But tonight the tables were turned. Tuesdays are “Knothole Gang Kids Club” nights at Roger Dean Stadium, and one of the recurring features of such a night is a “Knothole Gang Scavenger Hunt.”
Thus, I became the hunted.
While not posing for selfies with local youth, I interviewed Roger Dean general manager Mike Bauer about what it’s like to transition from Major League Spring Training to the Florida State League. Some relevant excerpts from the ensuing MiLB.com story, which helps put the sleepy Tuesday night that I am currently documenting in context.
“It’s truly a challenge within the Florida State League, having two teams, because 140 games is a lot of games. You lose a sense of ‘Hey, catch ’em all’ because we’re here every day. But during the Minor League season we have a chance to let our hair down a little bit, do Kids Club activities and promotions like barbecue festivals and ‘Star Wars Night’ and all those things that the families enjoy. Whereas Spring Training is a little more black and white. It’s about baseball and the food. That’s what it is.”
“[In the Florida State League] we don’t market an equal number of Palm Beach and Hammerheads games. We market the weekends and we market the holidays however they fall, because the arrangement is that, although they’re two separate teams, financially it’s all one pot. [The Marlins and Cardinals] go in together and split everything down the middle.”
After talking with Bauer I met with my designated eater for the evening, but we’ll save that for the next post. Once that had concluded, night had fallen. How dramatic.
Lottery tickets were awarded to lucky fans atop the dugout.
Your groundbreaking and subversive Vine joke of the day. Jupiter Hammerheads https://t.co/nBSJxq3mKd
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) April 15, 2015
I then visited the broadcast booth, witnessing Paul Heinzkill on the play-by-play.
When I expressed confusion re: Paul’s last name, he told me “It’s ketchup [Heinz] and kill. Yeah, I’ve got mustard on my shirt but it’s ketchup.” Heinzkill then vacated the booth, and I did an inning on the radio with broadcaster Lisa Pride. Thanks, Lisa.
The view from the top:
Toward the end of the ballgame, I start to get a little loopy.
It’s been a long day’s journey into night. https://t.co/ijjE4Qsx46
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) April 15, 2015
Finally, I stopped by the team store.
Merchandise manager Linda Hanson told me that this store did $1.1 million of revenue during Spring Training, with the number one selling item being a “red, adjustable, Spring Training-themed St. Louis Cardinals hat.” Approximately 8,000 of these were sold.
“We’d have a line 40-50 deep of people just waiting to get in the store,” said Hanson, adding that the merchandise could quickly be “flipped” depending on whether the home team was the Cardinals or the Marlins.
When I was talking to Hanson, the game ended. The Threshers won, 6-1, in a game that took two hours and 44 minutes to play in front of a crowd of 927.
Finally, some urinal ads for you to enjoy from the Roger Dean men’s room. Sorry that I don’t have streaming video.
To see all of my posts from this visit to the Jupiter Hammerheads (this is Part One) 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.
Roger Dean Stadium is located in Jupiter, Florida. More specifically, it is located in Abacoa, a planned community within Jupiter that includes both residential and commercial districts as well as ample public outdoor space.
I barely had the chance to explore Abacoa, but my initial impression was that it was beautiful but also disconcerting. It seemed surreal to me, choosing to live within such a controlled, self-contained environment. I’m saying this as a nouveau Brooklynite who once got turned away from my local laundromat because an episode of Girls was filming there. What is real, anyway?
Let’s go check out a Minor League Baseball stadium.
Walking down this idyllic paved road leads one to an idyllic stadium exterior. Welcome to Roger Dean Stadium.
Roger Dean Stadium: it’s a busy place! This facility, which opened in 1998, is the Spring Training home of the St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins. Then, during the season, it is the home of both the Cardinals and Marlins’ Florida State League affiliates (the Palm Beach Cardinals and Jupiter Hammerheads, respectively). It also hosts the rookie-level Gulf Coast League affiliates of both organizations — who play on the backfields — as well as a wide variety of youth, high school and collegiate baseball tournaments. Between Spring Training and the Florida State League, the main field hosts some 170 professional baseball games a year.
In February of 2014, I wrote a story about all of this activity. A relevant excerpt:
Roger Dean Stadium was built in 1998 with the specific intent of accommodating two teams, and therefore each tenant has its own clubhouse, practice fields and training facilities. During its first six seasons of existence, the ballpark hosted the Cardinals and Montreal Expos, but after the latter team dissolved, a series of transactions resulted in the Marlins organization taking their place.
“What we have is a partnership between the two teams called Jupiter Stadium Limited, and I’m the general manager of that partnership,” said Roger Dean general manager Mike Bauer, going on to explain that the “Roger Dean” moniker is the result of a naming rights deal with a local car dealership.
There’s a lot of ground to cover at a place like this. Almost as soon as I arrived at the ballpark, assistant general manager Alex Inman and marketing and promotions manager Jeffrey Draluck gave me a golf cart-assisted tour of the ample back fields. Both the Cardinals and the Marlins have their own quad, as well as an additional half-field, three sets of batting cages and three bullpen mounds.
It all adds up to 110 acres of baseball-centric land. This panorama is the only photo I got that remotely comes close to conveying the vastness.
Here we are on the Marlins side of the action. The half-field there on the right side is named “The Bone Yard,” after Marlins infield coach Perry “Bone” Hill. (Not to be confused with me, Ben “Bone” Hill.)
Bone is widely regarded as one the best — if not the best — infield coaches in baseball. Here’s a short video of him in action, filmed during 2015 Spring Training. As you’ll notice, these back fields are open to the public, giving fans a chance to see the players hone their skills in an intimate environment.
Next up was to check out the clubhouses. Specifically, the Cardinals clubhouse, as the Marlins’ clubhouse was in use by the Jupiter Hammerheads (the home team on the evening I was in town).
This locker room is used by the big league Cardinals in Spring Training. During the season, the Palm Beach Cardinals take over. Pretty nice accommodations for the Class A Advanced level, eh?
The clubhouse snack offerings include Grinds. I once wrote a story about Grinds.
In the hallway, we passed cubbyholes stacked with fan mail for the Cardinals players. The big stack there on the left was mail addressed to Michael Wacha. Hopefully it’ll make its way to St. Louis at some point soon.
Also in the hallway — banners celebrating Minor League championships won by Cardinal affiliates.
— Benjamin Hill (@bensbiz) April 14, 2015
It is important to note, however, that during Spring Training the clubhouses are strictly segregated by class. I was told that, one year, Cardinals Major League players (jokingly?) put up stanchions to keep Minor Leaguers from entering their hallowed ground.
The Minor League Spring Training clubhouse looks like this. Once the season starts it is used by guys in Extended Spring Training and, later, the Gulf Coast League.
All players have access to the weight room, but class distinctions remain.
…complete with the requisite accoutrements.
If a refresher course on the human anatomy is needed, then Yadier’s got you covered.