Take Me Out to the Foodgame
With the 2019 baseball season in full swing, teams across the nation are preparing for the scores of visitors who will walk through the stadium gates. As Major and Minor League teams continue to look for new ways to hit a home run with fans, many have found that the way to a crowd’s hearts – and wallets – is through offering the best ballpark food. Gone are the days of the humble hot dog and domestic beer at baseball stadiums. Instead, they have been replaced by gourmet and sometimes bizarre food and beverage options as stadiums compete against each other to see who can come up with the largest portion size, craziest food pairing, or most Instagrammable menu item. Check out the best ballpark food of the 2019 season below.
The Baseball Food (and Drinks) You Need to Try
With the Fowl Pole, the Texas Rangers are offering visitors a Texas-sized chicken tender. The 2-pound tender is battered and fried, then served with waffle fries, ranch, and a honey mustard dipping sauce. If your taste buds are on the more adventurous side, you may want to head to a Rockies game at Coors Field. The Rocky Mountain Po’boy is a staple at Rockies games and features Rocky Mountain oysters topped with garlic slaw, guacamole, green chili ranch, pico de gallo, and cotija cheese – all served on a po’boy roll. (Rocky Mountain oysters, for those still wondering why this dish is an adventurous choice, are fried bull testicles.)
Don’t live near a Major League team? You’re in luck, because bold flavors are just as popular in the minor and independent leagues. The Gateway Grizzlies of the Frontier Baseball League may not have Rocky Mountain oysters, but they are known for offering their own exciting baseball food. Their most popular menu item – called “Baseball’s Best Burger” – is not your ordinary burger. Instead of using a typical bun, this large burger is sandwiched between two halves of a Krispy Kreme doughnut. The burger has been featured on many food TV shows and definitely contributed to the popularity of the wacky food trend currently making the rounds at stadiums.
Beverages are getting in on the fun, too. In the Major Leagues, some teams are partnering with local craft beer vendors to create their own baseball-themed beers. The Washington Nationals and Devils Backbone Brewing Company have paired to create the Earned Run Ale, a session pale ale that can be found in Nationals Park throughout the season. Other teams that have paired with brewing companies for their own themed beer include the New York Yankees, Houston Astros, Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, New York Mets, Kansas City Royals, and the San Diego Padres.
For fans looking to try every MLB team’s food, the league will be holding its second annual Food Fest this year, with stops in Los Angeles, New York, and across the pond in London. At this fest, each team brings the best ballpark food from their menu so fans can try smaller portions from around the league. Tickets for the event come in four different packages, ranging in price from $45 to $90 depending on how much food you want to try and whether you plan on drinking.
Wacky Baseball Promotions
Not only can the food be a major selling point for fans, but baseball promotions are just as interesting. The Tennessee Smokies, the Double-A Affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, are running a free beer promotion a few times this year that ensures home fans will be cheering on their team’s pitcher to a shutout. With the purchase of a refillable Smokies mason jar, fans can enjoy free beer from the first pitch up until the opposing team scores a run.
Many minor league teams also have special food promotions in which they will change their team name for a game, wear special uniforms, or have a special on certain foods. The York Revolution, an independent team in the Atlantic League, changed their name to the York Pretzels for one game. They created a specialty pretzel menu and sold replica pretzel-themed merchandise to commemorate the game. Other one-night, food-themed team names have included the Staten Island Pizza Rats, the Delmarva Scrapple, the Pawtucket Hot Wieners, the Maine Whoopie Pies, and the Charleston Boiled Peanuts.
The Milwaukee Brewers will continue a fan-favorite tradition for the 2019 season: the sausage race. This event has been around since 1993 and is run every game after the top of the sixth inning to promote the Johnsonville sausages sold at Miller Park. The five characters (who also act as team mascots) are named Brett Wurst the Bratwurst, Stosh Jonjak the Polish Sausage, Guido the Italian Sausage, Frankie Furter the Hot Dog, and Cinco the Chorizo. In a similar vein, the Pittsburgh Pirates hold a pirogue race during their games.
Teams without a live-action race may have an animated race on their videoboard highlighting different foods sold at their stadium. Guaranteed Rate Field, the home of the Chicago White Sox, treats guests to the Bouna Beef race. Fans are given a ticket with one of the competitors on it when entering the park, and if their beef wins the race, they can claim a free beef sandwich within the next day.
Fans of Faster Food
At least one MLB team has decided to change up how fans buy food at games. Tropicana Field, the home of the Tampa Bay Rays, has recently switched to a cashless system where fans can only buy food with credit or debit cards, a change intended to decrease transaction times and keep lines moving faster. Before you head out to enjoy a ballgame this season, check your local stadium’s website to see if they’ve switched up their payment policies, too.