(Nacho) Typical Blog Post
The previous post on this blog ended with an anniversary logo (the Hickory Crawdads 20th, to be exact), so in the interest of seamless transitions let’s keep that particular train right on a-rollin’:
It should be self-explanatory, but the above mark commemorates the fact that 2012 will be the Northwest Arkansas Naturals’ fifth season. They played their first season way back in 2008, when George W. Bush was president, the price of a postage stamp was a mere 41 cents, and Ben’s Biz Blog was less than a year old.
But enough about bygone eras. Let’s celebrate the future! The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers announced that there will be a nacho stand at the ballpark in 2012, and the team is currently conducting a Facebook poll to determine what the stand should be called. I am pleased to report that my submission of “Nacho, Nacho Stand” is one of the finalists.
I am not pleased to report that, as of this writing, my submission has received all of 16 votes. “Class A Nachos” is currently in first, and, really, that one is not nearly as good as mine or fellow contender “Nachossss.” Biz Blog readers, now is the time to rectify this egregious wrong! Vote HERE! (If I win, I’ll donate my free full-size free nacho grande helmet to charity).
2012 will also be Season 1 for the new-look Swoop, mascot of the South Bend Silver Hawks. When Swoop last appeared in this blog, he was engaged in an intimate moment with a Miss America contest.
But those days of tongue-in-beak insouciance are over. For last week, the Silver Hawks gave Swoop a makeover:
Speaking of the Silver Hawks, they were, to my knowledge, the only MiLB team to run a local TV ad during the Super Bowl. That spot, cinematic in scope, can be viewed HERE.
Of course, a far more common Minor League approach is to engage in a spot of parody. The Frederick Keys did just this, putting their own spin on a FIAT ad (the original can be viewed HERE).
And speaking of the Super Bowl, you’ll no doubt recall that the last post on this blog started with info on the Lowell Spinners us-against-the-rest of the New York-Penn League big game bet.
It was a sizable gamble, and the Spinners lost. Therefore, mascot Canaligator is in for a summer of abject humiliation.
Even more so than usual:
As for me, I’ll be “writing a blog…all summer long.” Don’t you forget about me.
The Year in Ballpark Food, Part 1
I never set out to be a food blogger, and, really, I’m not. Nonetheless, food is a important component of the Minor League experience, and throughout my travels this past season I did my best to document ballpark comestibles in particular as well as regional cuisine in general.
Today’s missive (which went live at lunchtime for a reason) is the first of what will be a two-part compendium of the 2011 season’s food-based posts and photos. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section and via email: What are your favorite Minor League ballpark foods, and why?
What follow are some of mine, presented in the order in which they were consumed.
My first 2011 road trip began in Tucson, home of the T-Padres. And what better way to enjoy Kino Stadium’s sunset views than with a plate of nachos from ballpark vendor El Charro? Nothing too fancy, but the freshest of ingredients combined with from-the-oven homemade tortilla chips helped to distinguish this particular platter.
The following afternoon, a reader recommendation led me to local institution El Guero Canelo. The specialty there is the “Sonoran Dog,” which I described as a “hot dog is wrapped in bacon and topped with cheese, salsa, onions, tomatoes, beans, mayonnaise and who knows what else. All of this was safely ensconced in the specially-crafted (and delicious) roll and served with a roasted pepper on the side.”
After a fleeting highway encounter with the still-elusive Biz Girl, I made my west to territories occupied by the California League’s South Division entities. One of the highlights of this leg of the journey came in Lancaster, where I was able to enjoy a non-photo shopped encounter with the JetHawks’ delectable “Sweet Po-Tater Tots.”
The Sweet Po-Taters were a mere appetizer, for then came the so-called “Stealth Burger:” a hamburger topped with pulled pork and onion rings. It was a formidable affair:
The Stealth Burger looked downright microscopic in comparison to the Brobdingnagian creation that was served to me in Lake Elsinore. Behold the Storm’s “Homewrecker,” perhaps best explained in t-shirt form.
The following month I traversed the great state of Ohio (with a detour in Fort Wayne, IN). The first stop on this particular Minor League journey was Toledo, where appropriately-named concessions manager Corey Pleasant laid out a stunning pre-game feast.
Here we have Greek Nachos (gyro meat and pita chips), Pulled Pork Nachos, and “Bases-Loaded Fries.”
But that, of course, was not all. Here’s the “Muddy Dog,” topped with chili, cheese, and onions.
And this artisanal creation is the “Bloomin’ Bacon Burger,” a 1/3 lb. grilled Black Angus beef burger topped with crispy strips of bacon, deep fried onion rings, American cheese, and bistro sauce on a fresh Kaiser bun.
And, of course, no visit to Toledo is complete without a stop at the legendary Tony Packo’s. I visited the Birmingham location before heading west to Fort Wayne, ordering a hot dog with chili, Paprika Dumplings, and a side of “Pickles and Peppers.”
After Toledo, I attended two ballgames at the Fort Wayne TinCaps’ Parkview Field. The majority of the second evening was spent with culinary director Scott Kammerer, who gave me a thorough tour of the team’s concession offerings. The tour resulted in an MiLB.com article, as well as this stunning image:
In addition to the hallucinogenic turkey leg seen above, highlights included delectable brisket sandwiches…
and a hot dog with “Cincinnati Chili” (the TinCaps’ best attempt to emulate the famous Skyline recipe).
The TinCaps are named after Johnny Appleseed’s iconic headwear, so this Apple Dumpling dessert was a fitting (and inspired) addition to the menu.
From Fort Wayne, I made my way back to the Buckeye State in order to visit the Lake County Captains. Food took a back seat to on-field participation during this jam-packed visit, but this was where I first became aware of the Cleveland-area phenomenon that is “Bertman Ballpark Mustard.”
Bertman’s Mustard: Responsible for the most delectable condiment globules around.
From Lake County it’s a veritable hop, skip and a jump to Mahoning Valley. It was Opening Day for the short-season Scrappers, and I celebrated the return of New York-Penn League baseball with the one-of-a-kind “Warsaw Wings.”
Deep-fried pierogies smothered in hot sauce!
A necessary cool-down soon came in the form of Handel’s Ice Cream. The flavor was called “Scrappy’s Favorite” — caramel ice-cream with bone-shaped chocolate-covered pretzels.
The Ohio excursion ended in Akron’s Canal Park, a location not lacking in death-taunting culinary options. After an exhausting evening that included a pie in the face and a stint in a dunk tank, I had both the following items placed before me.
On the left is the “Nice 2 Meat U Burger,” two 1/3rd pound patties, two hot dogs, bacon, cheese, and onions.
The sauerkraut-covered creation on the right is the “Three Dog Night,” a hot dog stuffed inside a brat stuffed inside a kielbasa.
And, let’s not forget: Bertman Mustard on top of it all!
Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2 of this food-based season retrospective, featuring a bevy of offerings from South and North Carolina as well as the doom metal capital of the world (the state of Maryland, in other words).
Until then, send me your photos and anecdotes related to your favorite ballpark foods and regional creations. I’ll be right here waiting for you.
On the Road: Visiting Dan Daniel in Danville
American Legion Post 325 Field at Dan Daniel Memorial Park might have an unwieldy name, but it’s a pretty unassuming place to watch a ballgame.
The city-owned facility is home to the Appy League’s Danville Braves, but as the name would imply it also hosts an array of local youth teams as well. And while the structure itself is modest, the area surrounding it is impressive. “Legion Field”, as it is commonly called, is located within the sprawling 170-acre confines of Dan Daniel Memorial Park.
The park is also home to a gleaming, thoughtfully-constructed Veteran’s Memorial, paying tribute to local war casualties from the Revolutionary War to Iraq and Afghanistan.
I had assumed going into the evening that the town of Danville was named after Dan Daniel, whoever he may be. But this assumption, like so many before it, turned out to be erroneous.
The town of Danville is named for the Dan River, which itself had been named by an 18th-century settler. Dan Daniel, meanwhile, was a longtime Democratic Congressman who died in office in 1989 at the age of 73.
As the plaque notes, Daniel’s “fiscal conservatism was exceeded only by his liberal love of family and nation.” And — look! — his real first name is “W.C.” They could have called the place “W.C. Fields.”
Back within the confines of the stadium, I did my usual round of player interviews and then took in the pre-game scene.
As game time approached, I was caught unawares by the announcement that “Santa Claus” would be throwing out the first pitch. I then did the best I could to document this rare offseason appearance. It wasn’t even “Christmas in July” night. He was just…there.
In the above shot, note that there are a lot of children hanging out in the home dugout. Most of them are the players, many of whom are still in their teens. The rest were there as part of a birthday party for the daughter of D-Braves GM David Cross (I’ll never be able to type that name without thinking of my college-era obsession with Mr. Show).
First pitches, as they often do, gave way to the National Anthem.
And wouldn’t you know it? After the National Anthem the game began.
I spent most of the evening watching from the third and first base bleachers, as the covered grandstand area was obscured by a net that stretched halfway down each base line.
But the view from the first row was nonetheless pretty good.
One key advantage of sitting in the grandstand was that the seats weren’t wet — as was often the case on this road trip, the weather was a bit on the precipitous side.
But why I am sitting here writing about sitting? It’s time’s to sit here and write about wandering. This mural is one of the first things one sees upon entering the park.
It’s very well done, but I liked this bit of ballpark artwork even better.
I can’t help but make a note of this prominent bit of misspelled signage.
Speaking of misspelled signage, I am continually amazed that this Chik-Fil-A advertising campaign was greenlit — desperate members of a species targeted for mass slaughter trying to appease their carnivorous overlords by advocating for the mass slaughter of a different species.
Dystopian sci-fi hasn’t got a thing on Chik-Fil-A.
And on the topic of discriminate animal consumption — let’s check out the D-Braves concessions.
The team proudly serves Kunzler hot dogs. Is it just me, or are there subliminal images embedded within this logo?
But it’s my policy to always order the most unique thing on the menu — in this case the bologna burger. And this led to a problem — I had no money on me. Usually this is rectified by a quick trip to the ATM, but in this case it was rectified by a not-so quick trip to the ATM.
20 minutes, several wrong turns and two out-of-order ATM machines later, I finally found a working cash dispensary and then hightailed it back to the park. The lesson here is that while the Appy League may be cheap, always bring enough cash for all your ticketing/concession/”souvenier”/50-50 raffle needs.
Finally, it was time for the bologna burger.
It’s topped with onions, peppers, and mustard, a combination recommended by the guy working the grill (“That’s how they make ’em down at the racetrack,” he told me).
It tasted fine, but suffered in comparison to my closest reference point: the pork roll sandwich. (This is a New Jersey specialty, and now that’s it on my mind I’ll go on the record and say that a pork roll sandwich with Chickie and Pete’s Crab Fries and a Yuengling is my favorite concession combination in the Minors. Here’s to you, Trenton Thunder.)
But in this particular narrative I’m in Danville and still hungry. While the nachos were standard issue, I appreciated the fact that they were served like this (with a bag of tortilla chips on the side).
It might look sloppy, but layering the bottom of the tray rectifies the all-too-common problem of not enough cheese (writes a single 32-year-old man blogging about nachos on a Friday evening).
But these are nacho problems, they’re mine. So let’s return to the ballgame.
The between-inning activities were fairly minimal, as one would expect. There was a Pony Hop Race (those things are everywhere these days) and a dizzy bat race among other things, but for the most part it was little more than a PA announcement related to sponsorship or an ongoing game program bingo contest. At one point “The Chicken Dance” was played, with no accompanying announcement that it was the Chicken Dance or that people should, in fact, dance. I appreciated this.
Blooper the mascot made the rounds throughout the evening, but my attempts to take an interesting picture of him continually proved fruitless.
But this shot of the Danville sunset turned out pretty well, I think.
Also turning out well was the game itself, with the D-Braves coasting to a 7-3 victory over Pulaski.
There is ample opportunity to interact with coaches and players outside of the home clubhouse after the game.
But what excited me the most was that I finally got a nice shot of Blooper.
I’m going to add this one to my ever-growing “Introspective Mascot” file folder. If you’ve got some of your own to send along, you know where to find me.
On The Road: Checking In From Tucson
It has been an unfathomably long day, the way days are when they involve thousands of miles of travel and multiple time zone changes. But before shuffling off this mortal coil (that means going to bed, right?) I wanted to provide decisive evidence that I did indeed make it to today’s Tucson Padres game.
This was taken from Kino Stadium’s upper level, at sunset. Goodbye sun!
And hello baseball!
This was an evening that involved the three Fs…
Food (the “Charro Nacho” platter at ballpark vendor El Charros)
Foliage (if I was a botanist I’d tell you what these are, but since I’m a baseball writer I’ll tell you that they were on stadium grounds)
Friars (more specifically T-Padres mascot Kino Bambino, leading the crowd through the motions of a subversive disco anthem)
The fourth F of the evening is fatigue, meaning that this will be the shortest “on the road” post in Ben’s Biz Blog history. But tomorrow (Friday) is a full day in Tucson, so there is plenty of content yet to emanate from the beautiful confines of Kino Stadium.
Until then, good night.