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Mudville: July 29, 2021 9:08 am PDT
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GMS Field: New York Yankees

“Waiting is painful. Forgetting is painful. But not knowing which to do is the worst kind of suffering.” – Paulo Coelho

 

It happened. Baseball is back. Sometimes I forget how long it has been since I last sat in a warm Florida sun with an uncomfortable plastic seat propping me up as I joked with a couple of co-workers about how the NBA was jumping the gun by cancelling games.

It was Yankees vs Braves at this very same Spring Training park a little less than one year ago today. Little did I know – or for that matter any of us – know that it would be the last “normal” crowd of baseball to this day. But as a world recovers from a surreal pandemic that changed life globally without warning and with most of us in disbelief, today felt as close to normal as it could ever possibly be.

George M. Steinbrenner Field

Sure, there’s still masks and social distancing, hand sanitizer stations everywhere and plenty of signage. There is a Today when I walked through the gates of GMS Field in Tampa, FL and for the first time in a long time, I knew that baseball was back. I don’t want to bore you with all of the personal, sentimental stuff because we both know I’m #thefoodguy and I’m just here for the hot dogs, but I wouldn’t be doing you any favors by leaving this out. It was overwhelming to even think about.

I didn’t sleep last night; I couldn’t. I was as excited as any Christmas Eve I’ve ever spent as a child patiently waiting for the sun to poke out so I could leap from my bed and get the festivities started.

It happened. Baseball is back.

Well, isn’t this poetic….

“It’s hard not to be romantic about baseball,” Billy Beane, Money Ball.

The infamous Chicken Bucket

Here it is folks, the infamous Chicken Bucket.

Believe it or not this is the second time today I’ve used this quote. It’s one of my favorite movie quotes of all time and it couldn’t be truer than it was today. The wait it over and baseball was back. (It actually came back yesterday, but I wanted to see Gerrit Cole pitch)

It was everything I hoped for and more. From the National Anthem to the first pitch, from when the teams took the field to the final out, all I could do was take in the sights, sounds, and smells of a baseball game. The food was plentiful and in a limited seating stadium there were no lines, no crowds and it was nice to once again hear the sounds of the game.

Didn’t you go to eat?

I did. I went to eat, and boy did we try (and finish) a lot. Chicken Bucket, hot dog, Egg rolls and a BBQ pulled pork and mac and cheese concoction I instantly regretted. I don’t like to give too much away in the story because I think watching me talk with my mouth full is part of the experience. I’ve gotten pretty good at it, especially when I burn my mouth.

At the end of the day, “Behind the Dish” was where we always intended it to be – inside baseball stadiums sampling the unique and tasty offerings that are as different as the markets they call home. Before too long we will have crisscrossed America and been there / done that in more parks than most. In the meantime…

The Brisket Eggroll.

The Brisket Egg Roll. Comes with a side of the Itis.

George M. Steinbrenner Field: 1 Steinbrenner Drive Tampa, FL 33614

Rating:  The Babe Buffet – You want it, they’ve got it. Burgers and fries. Dogs and popcorn? Check. BBQ? Yup. Candy, Cracker Jacks and ice cream. All here for your enjoyment.

Major League Teams: The Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays (Dunedin, FL)

Minor League Teams: Tampa Tarpons

Other Baseball: Spring Training Home to the New York Yankees and the Tampa Baseball Museum, being built in Ybor City, Spring Training homes to the Blue Jays, Pirates and Tigers if you don’t mind a short drive.

Introducing the “Stadium Food Scale” we’ll be using in ballparks in 2021.

  • Dumpster Fire – On the menu or in the bowl, this shit stinks.
  • School Fair – Everything is greasy, everything is fried – Limited options.
  • The “Take me Out” – Traditional food, but nothing special.
  • Fancy Pants – Sushi, Steaks and monocle wearing worthy menu options. Fancy.
  • The Babe’s Buffet — Everything you need and a bunch of things you didn’t. This is the end all be all of stadium food. Limitless options and so much food, even George Herman Ruth would tap out.

Father, husband, runner, and food guy. Baseball traveler, stadium food connoisseur, and podcast fill-in. Just here for the hot dogs.

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