By Barry Janoff
April 1, 2015: For baseball players, the dog days of summer generally start in July and last through August.
For MLB fans, the hot dog days start with Opening Day and last through the Fall Classic.
Food has gotten more diverse at MLB ball parks — steak, sushi, crab rolls, shrimp burgers, triple-stacked nine-cheese sandwiches with candied bacon — but it all comes down to hot dogs.
During the 2014 MLB season, more than 21.4 million hot dogs (and 5.5 million sausages) were consumed at stadiums nationwide, according to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, based in Washington, DC.
Some 7 billion of those were eaten between Memorial Day and Labor Day, with peak consumption coming during the July 4th holiday (which also is the official start of National Hot Dog Month), when about 150 million hot dogs were downed while people were watching hits, homers, strikeouts and groundouts.
According to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, people attending Los Angeles Dodgers home games in Dodger Stadium led the Major Leagues, eating nearly 3.1 million hot dogs.
Visitors to Texas Rangers games in Globe Life Stadium came is second, with about 1.6 million hot dogs downed, followed by attendees of Boston Red Sox games in Fenway Park, who ate to the tune of 1.5 million hot dogs.
The Top Five also includes the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians, where visitors to Yankee Stadium and Progressive Field, respectively, ate about 1 million frankfurters.
According to a a Harris Poll conducted last season on behalf of the NHDSC, 71% of Americans top their hot dogs with mustard, with ketchup 52%, followed by onions (47 %), chili (45%) and relish (41%).
But there is much more to MLB ballpark hot dogs than cooked sausage, buns and accoutrements.
“The variety of hot dogs at different baseball stadiums inspire as much passion as the teams themselves,” said Eric Mittenthal, NHDSC vp-public affairs.
Aramark, a Philadelphia-based company that supplies food and beverage to nine MLB stadiums (and works with others in the retail and facilities areas) said it has spent the past off-season working with its team partners to enhance and expand the food options for baseball fans.
"We set out with one mission: create authentic menus that offer something for everyone and enhance the game-day experience," Carl Mittleman, president of Aramark's Sports and Entertainment division, said in a statement. "I'm very proud of the Aramark team, and the work they've done to ensure each of our menus offers something new, classic and better for you."
Aramark's food and beverage ballparks are Citi Field (New York Mets), Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia Phillies), Coors Field (Colorado Rockies), Fenway Park (Boston Red Sox), Kauffman Stadium (Kansas City Royals), Minute Maid Park (Houston Astros), PNC Park (Pittsburgh Pirates), Rogers Centre (Toronto Blue Jays) and Turner Field (Atlanta Braves).
Included in its various kitchens of delight are such classic hot dogs as the Dodger Dog, Fenway Frank, Wrigley Field Chicago Dog, Yankees Nathan's Dog, Brewers Bratwurst, Cincinnati Skyline Chili Dog, Cleveland’s Sugardale dog and the Tigers Coney Dog.
More recently added options have enhanced the uniqueness of hot dogs that fans can find in ballparks, including the Rangers Boomstick, Diamondbacks D-Bat Corn Dog, Orioles Crab Mac and Cheese Dog, Tigers Poutine Dog, Pirates Polish Hill Dog, Braves Dixie Dog, Phillies Cheesesteak Dog and Nationals DMV dog.
Among other foodservice firms, Centerplate, based in Stamford, CT., has alliances that include the Tampa Bay Rays' Tropicana Field and Safeco Field, home to the Seattle Mariners. Centerplate has handled 20 World Series and 12 Super Bowls, with the 13th coming this February at Super Bowl 50 in Levi's Stadium.
Delaware North Sportservice partners include the Texas Rangers' Globe Life Park, Milwaukee Brewers' Miller Park and the Cincinnati Reds' Great American Ball Park, site of the 2015 All-Star Game this July.
For the coming season and All-Star Game, Delaware North installed 20 self-serve beer stations throughout Great American Ball Park stocked with brews from Anheuser-Busch. Fans can purchase pre-paid cards (in increments of $20 and $100) and use them until they tap out.
Legends Hospitality, co-owned by the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys, is the official food and beverage supplier to Yankee Stadium and AT&T Stadium.
Among the dressed-up hot dogs that will be served at Aramark-partnered stadiums this season, fans can expect to find:
• Citizens Bank Park, South Philly Dog: Phillies Frank topped with roasted red peppers, sharp provolone and broccoli rabe (Section 134).
• Coors Field, Taco Dog (pictured at top): Chorizo dog topped with cheese, lettuce and pico de gallo (Section 137).
• Kauffman Stadium, Steak & Cheese Dog (pictured right): Hot dog topped with chopped Philly steak and cheese sauce (Sections 247 and 208).
• PNC Park, Cuban Pretzel Dog (pictured below): Foot-long, all-beef hot dog topped with slices of ham, pulled pork, Swiss cheese, Dijon mustard and pickles, on a pretzel hoagie roll (Section 144).
• Rogers Centre, Peameal Bacon Sausage: Peameal bacon sausage topped with caramelized onions and honey mustard, on a cornmeal bun (Hogtown Grill, Sections 120 and 128).
And for those fans who want special fries with their dogs, burgers, sandwiches or as a stand-alone:
• Citi Field, Pat LaFrieda Filet Mignon Steak Frites: Waffle Fries topped with Pat LaFrieda filet mignon, caramelized onions and cheese sauce (Promenade Club LaFrieda Stand).
* Minute Maid Park, Gourmet Fries: Fresh cut garlic and parmesan, brisket topped curly fries and more (Street Eats, Section 126).
• PNC Park, Riverwalk Fries: Large cut fries topped with jalapeño cheese sauce, crispy bacon, a dollop of sour cream and chives (Section 144).
• Rogers Centre: Liberty Village Sausage Poutine: Crisp cut fries topped with traditional gravy, cheese curds, caramelized onions, sautéed peppers, smoked farmer's sausage and peameal bacon sausage (Toronto Street Eats, Section 134).
And among the items beyond the hot dog and fries menu:
• Citi Field, Pig Guy NYC's Bacon on a Stick: Grilled thick cut Pat LaFrieda bacon available three ways- Sriracha maple glazed, dipped in Salted Caramel, or S'mores with chocolate, graham crackers and marshmallows (World Fare Market).
• Fenway Park, Chicken Taco Salad: Iceberg lettuce topped with grilled chicken, tomatoes, onions, and avocado, served in a fried tortilla bowl (Right Field Rooftop Deck).
• Minute Maid Park, Chicken and Waffle Cone: Waffle cone stuffed with mashed potatoes, fried chicken and drizzled with honey mustard (Street Eats, Section 126).
• PNC Park, Rivertowne Brewing Hall of Fame Club Bacon Cheeseburger: Half-pound chuck & short rib burger topped with house made pulled pork, house cured jalapeno bacon, house made ketchup, pepper jack cheese garlic pickles, red onions, on a toasted, locally baked brioche (Rivertowne Brewing Hall of Fame Club).
• Rogers Centre, Distillery District Roast Beef Dip: House smoked beef topped with jus, roasted garlic aioli, horseradish mayo, crispy red onion and rocket greens, on a herb baguette (Muddy York Market, Level 100).
• Turner Field, Wing Diner: Chicken wings, tossed to order, in mango habañero, buffalo or lemon pepper sauce (Section 102).
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