Best of 2011-Food

Let me begin by saying that I’m not a “foodie”. I’m not into gourmet stuff. I just like a good quality food. I’m willing to try almost anything, especially ballpark food, just for my blog. That being said, I looked back over the variety of things I’ve tried or Ross has tried, just for you, my readers.

I have to say that the majority of places we’ve gone have had decent food. Most had passible hotdogs, fries and the like, so if I don’t mention it here, that means it was good or average enough not to stand out.

Best Hotdog–Reading Phillies

Best Hotdogs in the WORLD! The Berks hotdogs in Reading
Best Hotdogs in the WORLD! The Berks hotdogs in Reading

Hands down…no debate the Berks hotdogs at Reading’s First Energy Stadium are not to be missed. We went to may be fifteen or twenty games here and we never failed to eat at least one every time. The quality never waivers. These are the first hotdogs that you really don’t need ketchup to give them taste. In fact, by the third or fourth time I had one, I just gave up on the condiments all together, eating them plain. How many other hotdogs are THAT good?

Best Fries–Crab Fries–Philadelphia Phillies & Trenton Thunder

Chickie and Pete's Crab Fries
Chickie and Pete’s Crab Fries

Both Citizen’s Bank Park and Trenton’s Waterfront Park have Chickie’s and Pete’s outposts and everyone knows that Chickie’s and Pete’s have the best crab fries. I guess “technically” they’re not strictly ballpark food, but they are the go-to fries. If you see them, eat them.
Best Liquid Refreshment–Lemonade–Clearwater Threshers

Cheers! Lemonade at Brighthouse
Cheers! Lemonade at Brighthouse

Anyone who’s been to Brighthouse Field during baseball season knows how important it is to stay hydrated. Soda just doesn’t cut the mustard. You need something cold and caffeine free. Sure, you can go for the bottled water, but one bottle of water is just like any other. Here, you can see Ross and I sipping on a cold, sweet lemonade that was made as I ordered it. It’s sure to keep you refreshed.

Best Extra–Awshucks Corn–Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs

Awshucks Corn at Coca Cola Park.
Awshucks Corn at Coca Cola Park.

It may be called Coca-Cola Park, but I’d call it Awshucks Corn Park. The corn is roasted in the husk and then dipped in melted butter or melted butter, parmesan cheese and garlic. I preferred the buttered, Ross preferred the “everything”. If you’ve every had braces and tried to eat an ear of corn on the cob, you know how difficult it is. It would take me more than twenty minutes to eat it and another twenty to brush my teeth, but it was SO WORTH IT! So much so, I did it twice in a week!
Best Special Treat–Fried Oreos–Hagerstown Suns

Fried Oreos
Fried Oreos

They are beyond awesome…but not something you could eat every day. They are a once a summer treat. I’m looking forward to them next year when we return to Hagerstown’s Municipal Stadium…but only once. They are warm, sweet and almost melt in your mouth. I swear I could feel myself gain a hundred pounds as I finished my third, but for a once a year treat, it couldn’t be beat.

Best Cheese Steak–Philadelphia
(Sorry, I didn’t get a picture)

I decided to split this to Philly vs Everyone Else. If you’ve ever been to Philly, you know that there’s a reason why they are called “Philly Cheese Steaks”, so I found it unfair to try to compare all the ballparks in one category.

Ross and I debated on this one for a while, but we have come to a unanimous decision: we like Campo’s Steaks at Citizen’s Bank Park the best. Sure, there are a lot of people who will say that Tony Luke’s are better, but Ross and I like Campo’s. We feel that the steak is a smidgeon thicker at Campo’s but it’s the bread that kept us coming back for more.

Best Cheese Steak–Outside Philadelphia–Clearwater Threshers
(Sorry, I didn’t get a picture)

As any true cheese steak fan knows outside of Philly, what we call a “cheese steak” isn’t what everyone else calls a “cheese steak”. Once you have had the best, you really get choosey as to what is acceptable to you.

At Brighthouse Field, Delco’s has a steak stand just behind home plate. While hot dogs are the go-to food in Reading, Delco’s are our go-to dinner in Clearwater. The steak is good, not fatty at all and it’s smothered in cheese and the rolls are perfect.
Overall, I enjoyed our gastronomic tour of the ballparks. Once I started blogging here, I really made it a point to try a hotdog at every park for comparison as well as looking for any food that would make that park stand out. For the most part, I wasn’t disappointed. Of all the foods we ate, there were only two that were just plain bad. They weren’t just not to our liking, but bad. I won’t mention them here, I mean it could have been just an off night for them, but I will tell you this much…I won’t try them again to find out!

I hope you liked this review of the Food of 2011. I’ll be posting more “Best of” lists in the near future.

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So Close, Yet So Far Away

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I’ve waited to comment on the end of the seasons. It hurt. For this die-hard fan, it hurt.

As far as the Phillies went, the season opened with such promise and the bright flame of that promise burned brighter and brighter as the season went on. They clinched a play off berth earlier than ever before and it looked like we could all go to sleep and wake up at Halloween to find a pretty new ring in our treat bag. Instead, we found a cruel trick.

The St. Louis Cardinals, who went on to win the Series in SPECTACULAR fashion, crushed out that flame. Worse yet, adding a literal injury to that insult, we lost Ryan Howard to a ruptured achilles tendon on the last play of the season.

I’ll admit, I have a soft spot for the Cards. I have family in the St. Louis area and I even went by Busch Stadium this year as I took the Metro out to the airport after visiting my family. I would say that the Cards are my 3rd team. The first being, of course, the Phils. Second is the Tampa Bay Rays, my new adopted home town.

Busch Stadium

At least if the Phils had to lose, they lost to the best, right?

And that was the way it went the whole way down the farm system. Every team that made the playoffs, lost to the eventual winner of the league. I was there when both the Reading Phillies and the Lehigh Valley IronPigs lost. I suppose that should be some comfort that they lost to the best of the best. Frankly it isn’t, it still hurts.

This lover of the Phils had to take time to heal. I had to curl up in a corner like a dog and lick my wounds. The thing I hold onto now that we have cold and snow is that…there’s only 103 days left until Spring Training…

Moneyball–Right on the Money

IMG_8180

Since I left my job last fall, I must admit one of my greatest guilty pleasures is being able to go to a movie matinee on opening day. I get to see it before anyone else, but don’t have to fight the crowds. Moreover, even though I no longer work, there is still something so special, almost forbidden about seeing a movie at a time where I would have been working.

Ross and I caught the 3 p.m. showing at our local “small town” theater. I had thought since it was at 3 on a Friday, that it would be relatively empty…it wasn’t. (I think this is a sign of how well it will do) I would say that the top half of the theater was about 1/2 full and the bottom had a few people.

The movie centers around Oakland A’s General Manager, Billy Beane. Beane had been one of the hottest prospects in his day. The Mets actually picked him higher in the draft than Darryl Strawberry…but he never panned out. After floundering in the majors for several seasons he asked the A’s, whom he was playing for at the time, to hire him as a scout.

After several years, Beane moved into the front office and was eventually promoted to general manager. After losing in the playoffs in 2001, Beane went to Cleveland to attempt to make a trade, but what he found was “Peter Brand” a Yale graduate with a degree in economics.

At this point, I have to mention that “Peter Brand” played by Jonah Hill in the movie, was a pseudonym for Paul DePodesta, a Harvard graduate who went on to be a general manager/assistant general manager for several other major league teams.

Brand used “sabermetrics”, a method of statistical analysis, to help Beane to pick players based on their statistics more than their “money value”.

The movie portrays their meeting and how they used this statistical analysis to take a group of low value players and turn them into a winning team.

As far as Philly connections, Ed Wade is mentioned as Beane negotiates a trade and Raul Ibanez is “shown” playing in a key game scene. I am willing to guess what whomever casted this movie was not a baseball fan as the “Raul Ibanez” in the movie appeared to be African-American as opposed to Ibanez’ Cuban heritage.

While I like sports, I’m not necessarily a big fan of sports movies. That being said, it gives more credence when I say, “I really liked this movie.” I thought it was really well paced. I always say a good way to judge a movie is by how many times you check your watch. I didn’t look once…meaning I was entertained, interested and the movie moved at a good pace.

I was also tickled to snag a free movie poster at the theater…another bonus of going to a matinee on opening day. so now, right above my computer is a picture of Brad Pitt. How great is that? 😉

My Rating:
Moneyball–Gets 4 1/2 balls out of 5.

Home NOT Sweet Home

I am a little lax in updating and for that I apologize. Last weekend we did 3 games in 3 days: 1 in Lehigh Valley and 2 in Reading…and this week 2 games in Lehigh Valley…both Reading and Lehigh Valley are about 90 minutes from us so for each game it was a total of three hours in the car…a LOT of driving.

Reading lost their first game against the New Hampshire Fishercats…then won the second. They came back to Reading even and we were excited to see them. It was just not meant to be. It was Reading’s first win to the post season in ten years and while the series didn’t end in victory, I think it bodes well for the future. The Fishercats won both games…and eventually went on to win the Eastern League Championship.

The Lehigh Valley IronPigs won the first round against the Pawtucket Red Sox. They were commanding and we were so excited and hopeful they’d “Bring Home the Bacon”. We even went so far as to buy tickets for their three home games just so we’d have a chance to see them win.

It just wasn’t meant to be. The rally towels given out at the first game of the final round just didn’t work.

Governor's Cup
Governor’s Cup

I guess what was the most difficult was Reading’s loss. I had so much invested in that series…I was so sure they’d be able to make it. I know a few of the guys and if sheer will power could have helped, then all the well wishes and hope I had for them would have pushed them over the top.

I still consider myself incredibly lucky to have gotten to know them and hope them the best in the future, where ever they land…and if they can stay with the Phillies…I’ll see them again in Spring Training.

They’re Movin’ On UP!

Dominic Brown
Dominic Brown

It was the Jefferson’s Theme song that said:

We’re movin’ on up,
To the big time…
We finally got a piece of the pie!
The same could be said for several of the IronPigs. Within a few hours of losing the Governor’s Cup, five of the IronPigs were given their tickets to the big time. Justin DeFratus, Brandon Moss, Joe Savery, Erik Kratz and Domonic Brown got the call.

Justin DeFratus
Justin DeFratus

Justin DeFratus started the season with Reading, but was called up to the IronPigs midseason. This is his first trip to the Bigs.

Erik Kratz
Erik Kratz

Catcher Erik Kratz has played in the majors before, briefly, with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Kratz was an All-Star catcher this year in the International League.

Brandon Moss
Brandon Moss

This won’t be the first trip to the majors for Brandon Moss. He has had brief stints in the majors with several of his former teams. Moss lead all hitters in the International League with a .385 average and 4 home runs in the playoffs this year.

Joe Savery
Joe Savery

Pitcher Joe Savery is having an impressive year. He started the year in Clearwater as a position player, playing both first base and left field. Then he moved up to Reading as a designated hitter and relief pitcher. After his brief stop in Reading, he was called up to Lehigh Valley as a full time reliever. Not bad for a guy who was considering giving up the dream and going back to college this fall.

My favorite picture of Dominic Brown...Spring Training 2011. He had been taken out of the game and came and sat on the wall next to me and talked to fans as he signed autographs.
My favorite picture of Dominic Brown…Spring Training 2011. He had been taken out of the game and came and sat on the wall next to me and talked to fans as he signed autographs.

Domonic Brown is returning to the Phillies, he has bounced back and forth most of the season. The picture above is one I took in Spring Training. Domonic had finished playing for the day and instead of heading to the locker room, he sat down on the wall next to me. He sat there for quite a while talking with the fans and just enjoying watching the game with us.

Congratulations to all five newly promoted Pigs!

Phillies’ Minor League Players Picked for International Tournament

Tuffy Gosewisch
Tuffy Gosewisch

On September 15, USA Baseball announced the 2011 World Cup/Pan Am Team. These are minor league players who are not currently on Major League Baseball 40-man rosters.

Reading’s Tuffy Gosewisch (pictured above) and the Iron Pigs’ Joe Savery (pictured below) were chosen.

Joe Savery

It is worth mentioning with Savery being promoted to the Phillies, his eligibility for the tournament is in question.

I’d also like to mention that Reading’s Chris Kissock (pictured below) and Jay Johnson, a left-handed pitcher for Lakewood were picked for Team Canada.

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Chris Kissock

Wake Me Up When September Ends-Phillies Clinch NL East

Sept 18 201 Wake me up in October headline

There it is, the Phillies’ Magic Number is ZERO! They have clinched the NL East!

They clinched it the earliest in franchise history with 13 games left to play (six games sooner than the previous record.) This was win 98…if they win 2 more of the next 12 games, it will only be the third time in franchise history where they have won a hundred games or more in a season.

I saw this “front page” on Philly.com’s sports page and the only think I could hear in my head was Green Day’s “Wake Me Up, When September Ends”. It’s been running through my head all day.

How amazing was their win last night? Just think, for Joe Savery, Justin DeFratus, Brandon Moss, Erik Kratz and Dominic Brown, they hadn’t even been with the team for twenty four hours!

What struck me is that they are the team with the most losses in a franchises’ history, yet here they are back-to-back-to-back-to-back, or FIVE TIME NL EAST CHAMPIONS!

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