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    Mudville: November 26, 2021 9:55 pm PDT
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    Ed Smith Stadium: Baltimore Orioles

    “We understand how dangerous a mask can be. We all become what we pretend to be.” ― Patrick Rothfuss

     

    I shouldn’t have been surprised when I wandered through the gates and entered our second ballpark of the spring to find a much different scene. I travel for a living and everywhere I go has different rules and mandates so by this late in the game, I should have been ready for the changes.

    Maybe it’s because we had such a great time at GMS Field last week and everything seemed so easy that I expected things to be normal again. Sadly, I was slightly ahead of the game as far as thinking goes and was smacked back down to reality rather quickly this week.

    First bottles, now smacks…. You’re not the most popular guy nowadays.

    The bottle thing was an accident (I think). And no one smacked me, but I was smacked in the face with the harsh reality that even though things were starting to feel normal and baseball was back, we still have a long way to go before we can truly say we are “back to normal.” Now the only mask that usually gets me excited is a catcher’s mask, but in this particular ballpark not wearing a mask will get you in hot water – quick.

    Being almost a year from attending live games we always knew the restrictions would change and there would be new rules and that’s okay. The cost of doing baseball now is a little higher.

    What we didn’t expect was the ushers standing at the end of each row waiting to shout at you if your sip went a little too long or you tried to really relish every bite of that hot, juicy crab cake sandwich.

    It was weird. It was rude at times as we watched one extra special lady, we’ll call her Karen for the sake of argument, be especially nasty to the fans.

    Without warning she picked on one certain Yankees fan by threatening police action if she didn’t drink faster and return her mask to her face. Good grief. Just a week prior we were out in the sun on a beautiful spring day in Tampa enjoying baseball and tanning our chins. I digress.

    Maybe you should have worn duct tape.

    Maybe you will be if you keep this up. Now let’s get to the food. ESF was very limited and had much less to offer than GMS Field. Some of the staples of the past such as the Boar’s Head Sandwich Shop in the main lobby and Corona Cantina on the upper RF deck were closed. Most of the food came from only 2 vendors and offered mostly stadium fare like hotdogs, popcorn, and Cracker Jack.

    One of the only healthy booths I’ve ever seen in a ballpark wasn’t available and they did have a ghost kitchen Chick-Fil-A, which was really just a table full of food from the Fruitville location they kept in hot boxes and resold. Old Chick-Fil-A isn’t that good- since all fast food it has a shelf like of about 2 minutes and this stuff couldn’t make the drive over in less than 15, so I’d strongly advise you steer clear.

    No ice, no souvenir cups and only one players shop was open. This is far from the last park which was 100% open for business and operating all of its eateries and shops. It was surreal walking through the corridors of the stadium seeing garage door after garage door closed – and it gave the feeling of a Spring Training zombie apocalypse.

    So, you just went hungry?

    Come on man – #thefoodguy always eats. We were able to scrounge up some fish and chips, a crab cake sandwich, and a bag of Cracker Jack early. Late in the game we grabbed a local Italian ice /  ice cream concoction – nondairy, gluten free, yet extra tasty Carrousel Ice. Now before you ask how any of this was you already know what I’m going to say, watch and see. It’s going to be really, REALLY interesting going from park to park and seeing the way each city and team runs their show. Next week I’m going to hop on a plane and head west. There’s plenty more to eat in the Cactus League stadiums before is all said and done, so if I’m lucky we’ll find some Sonora Dogs or Dodger Dogs or something else new and exciting. There’s only one way to find out.

    Stay tuned and Stay Hungry. #thefoodguy

    Ed Smith Stadium: 2700 12 St. Sarasota, FL

    Rating: “School Fare” – Everything is greasy, everything is fried – Limited options.

    Major League Teams: The Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays (Dunedin, FL)

    Minor League Teams: Bradenton Marauders (Pittsburgh Pirates)

    Other Baseball: Grapefruit League teams litter the area (Jays, Tigers, Yankees, Rays and Braves)

    The “Stadium Food Scale”

    • Dumpster Fire – On the menu or in the bowl- this shit stinks.
    • School Fare – 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 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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