Batter Up!

27th October 20141
Photo: MLB/Getty Images
Photo: MLB/Getty Images

With the World Series in full swing, I cannot get my mind away from the fact that the Giants have a garden in the center field of San Francisco’s AT&T Park. Need some kale during the seventh inning stretch? Your search may have ended. Aside from the vegetable patch, AT&T Park was recently voted the winner of the PETA’s 2014 Vegetarian-Friendly MLB Stadiums.

Plant-perfect? No. Plant-based, yes. Easy to say that the shift in ballpark cuisine is rapidly changing, just like it is at chain restaurants. When my family and I head to the ballpark (forgive me, but I am a Phillies fan by zipcode, and a Met’s fan by birth), I still have to pack plant-strong food. But, the availability of fresh salads, fruit salads, and the like is vastly improving, making the seventh inning stretch much more fun.

Here’s a quick sketch of a few of the MLB stadiums and a short roster of the plant-based cuisine that’s presently offered. With some adaptations, it is clear to say that you can model some delicious plant-strong options by holding the oil and looking at the ingredient list:

1. San Francisco’s AT&T Park uses a great deal of packaged faux meats, but I would check out the Portobello burgers. I am still waiting for the delicious carrot dogs that are a winner (from Rip’s mom and sister, Ann and Jane) to appear on a ball park menu.

2. My home town park, Citizens Bank Park, the home of the Philadelphia Phillies has several vegan options. If you can get Tony Luke to hold the oil with the broccoli rabe (and if you have a whole wheat roll in your pocket), you’ll do well. Tony Luke’s is a Philly “ins-tee-too-shun” in South Philly and that fact that “rabe” is offered at the park is huge.

3. The Pittsburgh Pirates are slinging all sorts of great food, and if I was at PNC Park, I might check out the sushi, with the hope that it was made with brown rice. If you are a plant-strong sleuth, you might be able to find something suitable.

4. The Washington Nationals have some great food including a roasted cauliflower sandwich. The Nationals Park is a two hour ride from Philadelphia, and it is on my list for next year’s games. I am still broken-hearted that the Phillies traded outfielder Jayson Werth. Rumor has it that he eats meat-free.

5. Coors Field, where the Colorado Rockies play, might be the place to be. Fresh fruit kabobs? What could be better? There’s a full menu of plant-based foods. My guess would be that this is the healthiest ball park in MLB. There’s even a restaurant in section 120 called Right Field Greens! They actually have a full service salad bar! No greasy dogs in this section!

No matter where you watch baseball, eating seems to be another part of America’s favorite pastime. Today, there’s a curve in the way people are eating throughout the country, and seeing plant-based foods in national ballparks indicates that things are changing, one plant-strong bite at a time.

I have always loved baseball. As a teenager, I babysat for players and announcers from the NY Mets. When I was a school teacher, my class and I trekked to Brooklyn to the site of the former Ebbett’s Field. There’s something intriguing about the game. It is mathematical, poetic, balletic. And it has a rich history, from players, to stadium facts, and yes, to food.

As people chronicle the history books with stories about ballpark food– red-hots, peanuts and Cracker Jacks– one can only hope that the addendum to that history will soon include facts about the arrival of “Raise the Roof Lasagna” and “Mighty Muffins” to ballparks throughout the country. It is closer than you think!

As for the 2014 World Series, I am not sure who’ll take the series, but my kale is on the Giants.