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Down On The Farm: The Food of the Minor Leagues

Down on the Farm is an ongoing series where we conduct a deep dive with the minor league affiliates. We will interview coaches, players, and executives to gain access to some of the cool stories that ESPN will never touch. Sometimes fun, sometimes informational, we aim to give yout he full minor league experience.

Today, we take a look at some of the delicious specialty food from the five Cubs minor league affiliates.

One of the fun details that the minor leagues are known for is the food. Since fans aren't usually going to a minor league game for the best quality baseball, it is up to the front office to deliver a first rate food experience. Sometimes this involves having over the top food items that you won't be able to finish by yourself. other times, it becomes a commitment to excellence, where they ensure that the standard hot dog you are eating is the best possible.

Here's the deal. I love food. I love eating. I am a master griller. I've made my own BBQ sauce, regularly use a smoker for specialty meats, and constantly push the envelope in my cooking. Last year, I had the chance to go to Europe for the first time. The best part was the food. I ate everything I could. There are few foods I don't like. If something is fresh and tasty, it belongs in my tummy.

The point is, I love food. So today, we are going to talk about some of the cool food items I've learned about when doing some of my other stories on the minor leagues. I've found some tasty food from each of the Chicago Cubs' minor league affiliates, which I can't wait to try. Come back baseball.

Each minor league franchise typically has a food and beverage director. They execute all things food, and also work with the other members of the front office in generating promotions. With each of the minor league affiliates I spoke with, the all mentioned that they are devoted to providing great quality food at a reasonable price. Food is a big part of the baseball experience, and the minor league affiliates need to be at the top of their game to bring in fans.

Eugene Emeralds:

The Maple Bacon brat, based off a local mainstay's famous donut, this is a specialty bratwurst with maple and bacon flavors. Sweet and salty, it has a reputation as a must try. It is a ballpark favorite.

Myrtle Beach Pelicans:

The Pelicans might be far from Chicago, but they do have a couple of Chicago regional foods at their park: bratwurst, Italian sausage, and Italian beef sandwiches. They also carry a ton of unique regional favorites. Many of which are quite inventive. They've been rated a 5/5 in Stadium Journal for years.

Bog Balls: a regional favorite. They are a ball of rice and chicken, with some sausage and onion added It is rolled up, fried, transformed into an edible ball. They serve it with a helping of sriracha mayo on the side. A perfect bite size snack.

Deep Dish Pizza Burger: two 6 inch pepperoni pizzas with a 1/2 lb burger in between. It's big enough to share, but a lot of people will eat it solo.

Chicken and Waffle bites: fitting for the south. It is a chicken nugget, coated in waffle batter, which you then dip in maple syrup.

The Pelican's Sand Bucket: 6 scoops of ice cream and toppings in a pail, which you eat with a shovel. It's too much for one person, but I'd welcome an ice cream eating contest.

South Bend Cubs:

Cheese Steak Nachos: a fan favorite served in a full size cubs helmet. Steak and cheese are a potent mix.

Fenway Franks: Joe Hart shared with me that saw that the Fenway Frank is the number 1 ranked hot dog in all of baseball. South Bend's commitment to excellence means offering that same hot dog, and they actually have it flown in to South Bend.

Tennessee Smokies:

Last year, the Smokies introduced Bush's Beans Rocky Tots: Tater tot nachos. It is tater tots with a helping of bush's blended burger (60% beef, 20% beans 20% Mushroom), taco seasoning, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, green onion, shredded cheese, sour cream and buffalo sauce. Basically nachos, but with tots instead of chips. I've had tater totchos before, but never with beans and buffalo sauce. The stuff I've had is legitimately fantastic. I can't wait to try this.

The Boomstick: A foot long beer bratwurst with cheese, peppers and onions. It's the favorite of Chris Franklin, Food and beverage director for the Smokies.

The Smokies also have a Chicago based concession stand, where they can have region favorites from Chicago: Italian beef, Chicago style hot dogs, and Gyros. Their food and beverage director grew up in Morris IL, so he's well versed in Chicago foods. He was able to recite all the ingredients for a proper Chicago hot dog, and explained that he's trained his staff to know what it is.

Iowa Cubs:

When I talked with Randy Wehofer of the Iowa Cubs, he explained that they don't need to have goofy food items to get people to the park, so they rather focus on the overall quality instead of having a couple of newsworthy items. Much like South Bend. They just make it all good and tasty. They do have a little Chicago section in the main concourse which houses Chicago style hot dogs and Italian beef.

Des Moines is kind of known for Pork Tenderloin. They have a breaded pork tenderloin sandwich which has a good reputation. They come in different sizes, but are typically breaded pork tenderloins with mustard and onion, on a bun.

If you are hungry, please note that lots of minor league affiliates are doing curbside concessions during the pandemic. That is, you can place an order in advance, and pick up some tasty food from the ballpark. Most of these items come in affordable family sized packs, taking care of the full dinner experience. It supports your local team, and gets some tasty food in your belly. Bon Appetite!



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