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The food that fuels ballplayers

Sep 11, 2013, 2:16 PM EDT


Good story from Alyson Footer of about the evolution of food in the clubhouse. Even a generation ago — when Kirk Gibson and Don Mattingly played — it was all about cold cuts and candy. Davey Johnson goes back farther and talks of “cheese, crackers and beer.”

Now, totally different, obviously, and Footer talks to ballplayers and team nutritionist types who make sure that major leaguers have healthy options to help them reach maximum athletic performance. The Nationals even have a dedicated personal chef who talks about the need for athletes to eliminate processed foods and take control over their diet. He says:

“Sports culinary is one of the last untapped markets,” he said. “Teams are now starting to really look at food as everything. You want the best performance and the least amount of injuries, and if you eat garbage, your body is inflamed the whole time. From that inflammation, you get injured. You definitely want to treat them right and give them the best.”

Every time I hear this stuff I first nod my head, because it’s absolutely right.  Then I wonder why minor leaguers are still expected to live on pizza and fast food and are given neither the time, the transportation nor the financial means to seek out better food options before and after games. Really, a ton of these guys, especially in the low minors, subsist on bologna at home McDonald’s on the road.

You’d think that the first team to make a bigger investment in the eating and living conditions of their minor leaguers would reap some sort of reward for it.

  1. lukescottsbedsidemanner - Sep 11, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    I eat pig-meat which I hunt myself. Mmmm…bacon…..

    • historiophiliac - Sep 11, 2013 at 3:37 PM

      It’s an abomination.

      • lukescottsbedsidemanner - Sep 11, 2013 at 3:46 PM

        /hurls pig spear at historiophiliac’s buttocks

      • historiophiliac - Sep 11, 2013 at 3:47 PM

        Fooled you! I ain’t got no ass.

  2. skerney - Sep 11, 2013 at 2:30 PM

    I spent a few years as a clubbie and the Rays took what I fed the team twice a day very seriously. Cold cuts, smoothies, fresh fruit, and no fried food before the game and a full meal after the game. Getaway day is pizza out of necessity. The Rays even gave me an extra allowance to buy better food. When I would go into the other teams clubhouses I would see pans of fries, hotdogs, and corn dogs from the concession stand, in Double A no less. It was gross. Obviously the Majors have prime rib and personal chefs laying all over the place but for the most part even the teams that care the most about food neglect what their minor leaguers eat.

    • historiophiliac - Sep 11, 2013 at 3:40 PM

      That just makes me want to take a homemade meal down to the kids on the local team. 😦

      • skerney - Sep 11, 2013 at 5:21 PM

        There is no such thing as too much food in a minor league clubhouse, especially A+ and below. Your clubbie, coaches, trainer, and players would love it. Fruit stand items like melons, strawberries, or cherries make everyone happy.

  3. apkyletexas - Sep 11, 2013 at 2:38 PM

    The article and the quotes by the Nationals’ chef are a bit on the paranoid side. For example, nearly all meats (except wild-caught fish), wheat and all dairy products have inflammatory properties.

    This is a big deal if you are suffering from chronic arthritis.

    For the vast majority of young athletes, they are better off eating a nutritionally sound diet with healthy quantities of meat and dairy protein, and not worrying about common food-related joint inflammation. Losing muscle mass due to a strict vegan diet would be a more significant blow to their athletic ability than dealing with the tiny daily changes in joint inflammation.

    Of course, for athletes who are recovering from significant joint-related injuries (wrist and elbow being some of the biggies for baseball players), they might need to pay very close attention to limiting these types of foods in their diet.

    • TheMorningStar - Sep 11, 2013 at 3:32 PM

      “Losing muscle mass due to a strict vegan diet would be a more significant blow to their athletic ability than dealing with the tiny daily changes in joint inflammation.”


      That’s toral nonsense…plenty of bodybuilders and atheletes eat a vegan diet.

      Complete protein comes from many plants, no need for inflammatory flesh.

      • jimeejohnson - Sep 11, 2013 at 5:58 PM

        Oh how I wish that were true. The best protein for muscle building and maintenance are animal proteins. I say this as a pescatarian for over 30 years: I eat seafood but no other animal products, including dairy (allergic), and it has been very difficult to maintain the same muscle mass and strength I had when I ate meat. In fact, I plan to eat fowl and pork again soon just because of the lack of muscle building protein from the mostly non-animal sources I currently consume.

    • losangelesfan - Sep 11, 2013 at 4:06 PM

      they are better off eating a nutritionally sound diet with healthy quantities of meat and dairy protein

      If you’re trying to kill ’em.

    • antaresrex - Sep 11, 2013 at 4:34 PM

      “For the vast majority of young athletes, they are better off eating a nutritionally sound diet with healthy quantities of meat and dairy protein, and not worrying about common food-related joint inflammation.”

      The effects of inflammation aren’t limited to the joints, are they?

  4. philliesblow - Sep 11, 2013 at 2:49 PM

    This all makes sense until you realize that the player with the current longest consecutive games played streak is Prince Fielder.

    • supersnappy - Sep 11, 2013 at 3:24 PM

      Fielder is a big guy, but by most accounts he’s pretty diligent about what he eats (I don’t know if he’s still vegetarian). Prince is probably big largely to genetics. If he wasn’t at least somehwat careful about what he eats, its quite possible he’d be so heavy he couldn’t play at all.

  5. sportsdrenched - Sep 11, 2013 at 2:51 PM

    I’m surprised that this type of thing didn’t happen with the advent of big money contracts. Maybe it’s just me, but if I were investing in payrolls of near and over $100 Million dollars I’d be pooring all kinds of recources into making sure these guys had access to the most healthy food, elite nutritionists, and the latest research concerning performance nutrition, and exercise science. This ain’t some rinky dink rec league softball team. This is the highest level of competition, and the highest levels of big money.

    • bsbiz - Sep 11, 2013 at 4:50 PM

      I think the bigger point (as discussed by Joe Sheehan on his podcast) is the question about why a team doesn’t take a million or so (or less) dollars and provide their minor leaguers better eating options at home definitely and on the road to the best of their abilities. The idea of guys “paying their dues” by eating shit and travelling hours upon hours on a old bus is counter-productive to enabling 18-23 year old young men to reach the highest levels of their potential while they are still cheap (and under team control).

      • louhudson23 - Sep 12, 2013 at 4:27 AM

        The problem is that short term profits trump long term benefits….which has become the default basis for corporate business in the last thirty “trickle down” years….most minor league players will never make the majors nor ,should they make it,play for the same organisation….and when you are counting profits,no number is too big,no matter the implications….

  6. randomdigits - Sep 11, 2013 at 2:58 PM

    You would think so but…the vast majority of minor league players are there to fill out the rosters. Those that are not generally have the financial means to eat better.

    I do think that it would be in the organizations’ best interest to hire someone out of Culinary school at a low salary to make decent buffet spreads for home games so all the kids got at least an occasional healthy meal.

  7. hk62 - Sep 11, 2013 at 3:18 PM

    The smarter Lo-A teams that come through Appleton (on get away day, the Timberattlers supply good post game food, not junk) have their players spend the per dium at grocery stores (with salad bars, etc) instead of McDonalds or Wendys, etc. – Seeing all those fit 20 somethings grocery shopping is a crack up – but most of them are making good choices from what I have seen.

  8. Marty McKee - Sep 11, 2013 at 3:38 PM

    Actually, you would think all businesses would make a bigger investment in the eating and living conditions of their employees. But business owners, by and large, don’t think about the long term.

    • historiophiliac - Sep 11, 2013 at 4:05 PM

      I would say there is absolutely nothing my employer does to help reduce its insurance costs by promoting a healthier workforce. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

      • jimeejohnson - Sep 11, 2013 at 5:50 PM

        I wouldn’t eat the food my employer offers unless I was literally starving to death. I work for a public school district,

    • stlouis1baseball - Sep 11, 2013 at 4:27 PM

      That may be the case with business owners you have encountered Marty.
      But I know this one very much thinks about the long term.
      You have to if you want a business to sustain itself.
      Simply put…it’s vital. Especially with people (employees) counting on you.
      I truly feel a lot of pressure with that. Most of our employees have kids.
      That means something to me.

      I asked my partner to put up a basketball goal behind the shop.
      That was two months ago. I will be putting up the goal myself very soon.

      • jimeejohnson - Sep 11, 2013 at 5:44 PM

        Your employees are lucky to work for you.

    • brewcitybummer - Sep 12, 2013 at 5:48 PM

      I worked for an employer that tried to improve the health of its employees. It was a long time stand alone steel plant that was bought out by a major steel corporation shortly before I got there. It had a heavy alcohol and drug culture. They got most of the drugs out through drug testing right away. Several years later they started a program where if you improved your cardiovascular health you would get some sort of insurance cost reduction. When the nurse came in to do baseline testing I stood in the corner and laughed as she shook her head and glared at the supervisor, one worker after another. They were doing the testing on a Monday morning, and this being a factory in good old Milwaukee, about a third of the guys had detectable alcohol withdrawal symptoms. The plant manager realized he had unfortunately unearthed a larger problem, and the health promotion program mysteriously disappeared at our plant.

  9. jm91rs - Sep 11, 2013 at 3:38 PM

    I keep telling my kid how important diet is if he wants to continue to succeed in athletics. He’s at the age where all he wants is Mac & Cheese or McDonalds. I think some sort of PSA from some professional athletes about eating healthy would go a long way towards solving some of the obesity problems today’s kids face.

    • jimeejohnson - Sep 11, 2013 at 5:42 PM

      You’ve got to find something that tastes as good as McDonalds but is healthy. An athlete would notice the difference in how s/he felt after eating healthy food as compared with the feeling after eating unhealthy food. The old saying “eat here die home” is true.

    • amploud - Sep 11, 2013 at 6:18 PM

      That’s a great idea! It would be nice if other famous people (not just politicians) would talk about healthy eating.

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    • koufaxmitzvah - Sep 11, 2013 at 4:59 PM

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      • jimeejohnson - Sep 11, 2013 at 5:30 PM

        Especially when it comes to jobs like pilot, President, pizza maker, and postal worker. Must be something about jobs that start with a “p” where experience is overrated.
        Sarcasm, mmkay!

  11. tvguy22 - Sep 11, 2013 at 4:53 PM

    Just a sandwich stuffed with HGH and sprinkled with deer antler spray, a smack on the rump, and back to the field.

    • jimeejohnson - Sep 11, 2013 at 5:39 PM

      Don’t forget a shark’s fin and an elephant’s tusk.

  12. ingloriousbastardos - Sep 11, 2013 at 5:09 PM

    The Nats credit Werth with turning around the cuisine for the team. It wasn’t until he’d been there long enough and identified as a leader that they listened to him. All it takes is a superstar working it into his contract (i dont think werth did that). Not sure that will work for the minors. Weve all seen Major League.

    Hmmm… if only the players unite together to create an organization that would represent their collective interest at the bargaining table.

  13. jimeejohnson - Sep 11, 2013 at 5:38 PM

    If you really want the kill of all time avocados, get them from an online Southern California ranch/farm (google to get sources). Avocados are 10X better when you get them directly from the farm. You might have to eat about three or more before you develop a taste for them. Don’t give up after only one.

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