How Many Games Have You Been To?


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Oakland Coliseum, ca. 2015. Photo by redlegsfan21 via Wikipedia

So, how many games have you been to this season? Generally, by this time, I’ve been to at least a few. So far, however, its only been one. Of course, that didn’t stop me from simultaneously watching three on TV on Saturday. But, still. I feel like I need to improve my game.

With so much going on last week with Jackie Robinson Day, I never had time to share my thoughts on my first baseball adventure of the season – the Norfolk Tides at the Charlotte Knights. I’ll be posting more on that when I have time to think a little more sociologically about it. So watch this space!

This week I have plans to see games in California and New Hampshire. Comparing games from one community to another on different sides of the country is right up the alley for this Baseball Sociologist. So, stay tuned for updates on the Travels of the Baseball Sociologist!

In the meantime – feel free to share your baseball adventures so far this season in the comments section below!

~ baseballrebecca

 

Wishing Upon a Huntsville Star


IMG_0024There’s nothing sadder than an abandoned ballpark. Whenever I visit a new city, the first thing I do is check out its baseball scene – past and present. Unfortunately, I arrived in Huntsville, AL, three years too late to see the Huntsville Stars.

The Stars were a Southern League (AA) team from 1985 to 2014, affiliated first with the Oakland A’s (1985 to 1998), then with the Milwaukee Brewers. They won the league championship in 1985, 1994, and 2001, and division titles in five additional years. Unfortunately for Huntsville, the team moved to Biloxi, MS, after the 2014 season. They are currently known as the Biloxi Shuckers.

IMG_0019The first thing I did once I arrived in Huntsville was type in “Huntsville Stars” in Google. Despite telling me they were “permanently closed,” Google still gave me directions to Joe W. Davis Stadium. I missed my turn and ended up in the parking lot of a movie theater, but that’s when I noticed a large, hulking structure through the fence. It looked eerily abandoned. I stopped the car and took a closer look. It was a concrete building – shaped vaguely like a baseball stadium. I could almost make out the seating area and the stadium lights. That had to be it!

I turned around, found the correct road, and drove slowly toward the stadium. It was like something out of the past. Even though the stadIMG_0018ium has only been closed for two seasons, it looked old and abandoned. Chain link fence surrounded it, though I could still see the back of the scoreboard in the outfield – and two large signs in the shape of a star on either side of it. I’d definitely reached my destination.

I circled the stadium, taking it all in. Several “No Trespassing” signs were posted along the chain link fence. The box office was sadly silent. I turned the corner and caught a glimpse of the field. I parked and walked closer, feeling as if I were disturbing a sacred resting place. As I neared the fence, I could see the outfield scoreboard again. Directly in front of me on the concourse was a sign that said “Bat Boys.” I got back into the car and drove around to the other side of the outfield, parked again, and walked as close as I dared to the dear, departed stadium. From this vantage point I could see more of the field and the seating area.

Before ghosts appeared on the field à la “Field of Dreams,” I scampered back to the safety of my rental car. I may have been too late for the Huntsville Stars, yet, I felt like they were somehow still there.

~ baseballrebecca

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Cuban Sandwiches at the Ballpark


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Cuban Sandwich Dodger Dog (photo courtesy of ShockinglyDelicious.com)
Every year it seems as if baseball stadium food gets more and more elaborate, if not stranger. In many cases, the offerings at the stadium range from standard ballpark foods (hot dogs, popcorn, nachos, etc.) to local fare (crab cakes in Baltimore, sushi in Seattle). Some foods are becoming more and more prevalent – even some that we don’t necessarily associate with baseball.

One of my favorite types of food is Cuban food. Thus, I decided to see if any teams – other than the Miami Marlins – offered Cuban sandwiches at the ballpark. This is now relatively easy to ascertain today as nearly all MLB team websites include an interactive amenities map on the pages about their ballparks. These maps provide the menu at most concessions stands in each ballpark.

To my surprise, there are at least 10 ballparks where you can buy a Cuban sandwich:

  • Luis_Tiant_1965
    Luis Tiant, 1965
    Boston Red Sox – Cuban sandwiches are available at El Tiante (Yawkey Way concessions)
  • Chicago Cubs – Da Burger Cuban Pork Burger (grilled pork patty topped with bacon, ham, Swiss cheese, and mustard aioli)
  • Chicago White Sox – Cuban Comet Sandwiches (a tribute to Minnie Minoso) are available in Section 148
  • Houston Astros – Ballpark Cuban at FiveSeven Grille
  • Miami Marlins – the Goya Latino Café in Section 3 sells Cuban sandwiches
  • Minnesota Twins – Tony O’s Cuban Sandwich
  • New York Yankees – Moe’s Southwest Grill sells Cuban sandwiches
  • San Francisco Giants – Cuban Sandwich available at the First Base Deli, Orlando’s Caribbean BBQ, and the Public House
  • Tampa Bay Rays
  • Washington Nationals – Cuban Dog at the Taste of the Majors

In 2015, it was reported that there was a Cuban Pretzel Dog at the Pittsburgh Pirates’ PNC Park – though, I didn’t see it on their amenities map for this year. It was described as “all the fixins of a Cuban sandwich … on a footlong in a pretzel bun.” Something similar – the Cuban Sandwich Dodger Dog – was sold at Dodger Stadium for Cuban Heritage night last year. I’m not sure if the “Cuban Dog” at Nats Park is a hot dog or not. I’ve seen the one it described as both hotdog and Cuban sandwich. Thus, I will soon be undertaking a research expedition there to find out for sure. I’ll keep you posted!

Of course, as a sociologist, I wanted to know why are Cuban sandwiches popular in these ballparks and cities, but not others? There are nearly 1.8 million Cuban Americans in the United States – 84% live in just 5 states: Florida (68%), California (5%), New Jersey (4.7%), New York (4%), and Texas (2.6%). Correspondingly, Cuban sandwiches are sold at several of the MLB parks in those states.

Let’s look a little more closely at the cities in which Cuban Americans live. Of the 10 Metropolitan Statistical Areas with the highest Cuban American populations: 5 or 6 have MLB ballparks that serve Cuban Sandwiches (if you count DC, which has that “Cuban Dog” – whatever that is), 1 has an MLB ballpark that occasionally serves a Cuban Sandwich Dodger Dog, 2 do not have MLB teams, and 1 does not seem to serve Cuban Sandwiches at their MLB park.

Metropolitan Statistical Areas with
Largest Cuban American Populations
Cuban American Population Cuban Sandwich at the Ballpark?
1. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL

982,758

Yes
2. New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA-CT

135,391

Yes
3. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL

81,542

Yes
4. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA

49,702

Only on special nights
5. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL

36,724

No MLB team
6. Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL-IN-WI

20,633

Yes
7. Las Vegas-Paradise, NV

20,569

No MLB team
8. Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX

19,130

Yes
9. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA MSA

17,648

No
10. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV

14,527

Sort of

In addition, three of the MLB parks that serve Cuban sandwiches, while not appearing in the top 10 Cuban American MSAs, are known for Cuban players that played in those cities and, accordingly, serve Cuban sandwiches in their honor – Tony Oliva in Minnesota and Luis Tiant in Boston. As for San Francisco, though not known for its Cuban population, the Giants certainly have seen their share of Cuban-born players, including Tito Fuentes.

~ baseballrebecca

 

New Foods at the Ballpark


Cracker Jack and Mac Dog
Cracker Jack and Mac Dog (Photo courtesy of Aramark)

A few weeks ago – just in time for the beginning of the season – MLB ballpark concessionaires revealed their new offerings for the 2016 season. In many cases, the weirder the better.

Here are just a few of the new menu choices:

  • Cracker Jack and Mac Dog (a foot long hot dog with Cracker Jack, macaroni and cheese, salted caramel sauce, and fried jalapenos, on naan bread) at PNC Park (Pittsburgh Pirates)
  • Fried Bread Pudding Bites at Chase Field (Arizona Diamondbacks)
  • Irish Nachos (kettle chips covered with jalapeño queso, roasted tomatoes and assorted nacho toppings), Minute Maid Park (Houston Astros)
  • Buffalo Cauliflower Poutine (breaded cauliflower tossed in classic buffalo hot sauce and topped with cheese curds, “cheesy” gravy , and chopped scallions), Rogers Centre (Toronto Blue Jays)
  • Chicken and Donut Skewer, Globe Life Park (Texas Rangers)
  • Burgerpizza (20 oz. hamburger covered with cheddar cheese served between two personal pepperoni pizzas), Turner Field (Atlanta Braves)
  • Jalapeno Bacon-Wrapped Hot Dog (deep-fried hot dog wrapped in jalapeno bacon with American cheese), Camden Yards (Baltimore Orioles)

Bon appetit!

~ baseballrebecca

 

 

Baseball Farms


Baysox' Machado GnomeWith it’s pastoral imagery, re-birth in spring, farm teams, and garden gnome giveaways, the connection between baseball and agriculture would seem to be obvious. The other day, ThinkProgress.org posted an article on Major League Baseball and the urban farming trend. According to the article, five MLB teams currently have gardens in their stadiums:

  • Red Sox: Dubbed “Fenway Farms,” a 5,000 square rooftop farm grows on the roof behind Gate A of Fenway Park. Planted there are: kale, sweet peppers, a “rotating lineup of seasonal vegetables,” and herbs.
  • Rockies: The Coors Field GaRden, also near Gate A, is a joint venture between the Rockies and Colorado State University. Plants in this 600 square foot garden include: Purple Viking potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, turnips, chard, kale, beans, and chives, as well as herbs such as parsley, thyme, basil, cilantro, dill, oregano and sage.
  • Padres: For the last four years, the Director of Field Operations at Petco Pak has grown a variety of plants in the home and visitors’ bullpens, including: peppers, blueberries, avocados, pomegranates, lettuce, beets, onions, garlic, carrots, and radishes.
  • Giants: The Garden at AT&T Park is a 4,320 square foot area whec12d51868f6da4a15c087f5bb547dceare the team grows a variety of fruits and veggies, such as: blueberries, strawberries, avocados, tomatoes, peppers, squash, lettuce, lemons, and kale.
  • Nationals: For the 2015 season, the Washington Nationals have piloted a program at their ballpark with 180 plants to grow tomatoes, zucchini, squash and herbs. The team says if it is successful, they will expand the garden in the future.

There are other interesting agricultural connections to baseball. Apparently the New York Mets were the first to plant a garden. As the story goes, a stray tomato plant grew in the Mets’ bullpen in Shea Stadium in 1969. Since it apparently brought the team some luck – and the pennant – the groundskeeper kept planting in hopes of a future Mets winnning seasons. The Orioles’ Memorial Stadium also was a good place to grow tomatoes, though ivy didn’t do too well at Camden Yards.

In 2012, the Fresno Grizzlies established the Grizzlies Community Fund’s Farm Grown program to promote Central California agriculture. The team hosts a farmer’s market during every Friday home game. The program also includes a literacy component for children as well as agricultural exhibits and displays.

And of course, the St. Paul Saints, always a little different, have corn-themed foul poles in their stadium. The team that once had ears of corn as a promotional giveaway teamed up this year with the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) to feature the state’s largest crop on the stadium’s foul poles. In addition, MCGA signage is featured on the outfield walls and throughout the season the Saints will play “the world’s largest game of corn toss” between innings. And on July 25, the MCGA is sponsoring a mini bat giveaway for the first 1,000 fans.

Happy farming!

~ baseballrebecca

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Baseball Sociology and Meteorology


Potomac Nationals Grounds Crew, July 20, 2015
Potomac Nationals Grounds Crew, July 20, 2015

With the postponement of several baseball games on Saturday (resulting in a fabulous Sunday of double headers!) and the tornado warnings in St. Louis last night (prompting some to second-guess whether the nationally televised Cardinals-Cubs game should have started at all), it seems like it’s time for a quick post on baseball and the weather. In fact, just last week the National Weather Service observed National Lightning Awareness Safety Week.

So, here’s a brief rundown of recent articles on the relationship among baseball, weather, and sociology:

  •  Recently, the Washington Post clued us in to “How the Nationals make high-pressure weather decisions.”
  • Sky over Prince George's County Stadium, June 23, 2015 (photo courtesy of the Bowie Baysox)
    Sky over Prince George’s Stadium, June 23, 2015 (photo courtesy of the Bowie Baysox)

    Last Tuesday, several teams experienced amazing colors in the sky as storms approached or departed the local area, including: Chicago, Washington (check out the cool pic by none other than Bryce Harper), Boston, and Bowie (see the Baysox photo to the right).

  • In April, USA Today, reported that “Mike Trout also is baseball’s best meteorologist.”
  • Even stadiums with roofs, like Minute Maid Park, haven’t been safe from the rain this year.

Hopefully there are no rain-outs in your future!

~ baseballrebecca