There are a lot of great things about minor league baseball. There is the baseball itself, of course, and the low cost, and the high level of interaction between fans and players, and strange events that take place between innings, and let’s not forget the often amazing uniforms that appear in the minors.
And then there is the food. Minor league ballpark food is so varied and fascinating that it could be the subject of a book; it is already the subject of an annual contest run by MiLB.com. That’s right, it’s time for the Food Fight.
There are so many awesome items on this list I’m not sure where to begin. How about the Pulled Pork Parfait featuring pulled pork, mashed potatoes, and gravy from Lansing? That bit of tastiness looks almost normal compared to some other options.
If you’re in El Paso, you could try the Memphis Meets Mexico Juarez Dog. This bacon wrapped hot dog is not only topped with more bacon, but some fried pork skins for good measure (along with a bunch of other stuff).
The Great Lakes Loons of the Midwest League have managed to replace bread. Their Pig Mac is basically a pulled pork sandwich with deep fried macaroni and cheese standing in for the bun.
Not cheesy enough for you? Then head to Wisconsin where the Timber Rattlers have built the On Wisconsin burger. They top their hamburger with split bratwurst, nacho cheese, and fried cheese curds. That’s right, the cheese curds are on the sandwich, not served along side. Sign me up.
Northwest Arkansas reinvents the burger patty itself by building it from a 50/50 blend of ground beef and ground bacon. Naturally, they top it with more bacon. The name of this delicacy is, of course, the Texas League Squealer.
The Cubs’ own Boise Hawks make the menu this year with the Idaho Cheesesteak. At first glance this looks like a fairly normal cheesesteak. But normal food isn’t exactly a thing in the minors, so the Hawks Idaho this item up by adding hash browns on the sandwich.
Iowa makes the list as well with the best looking version of barbecued nachos on the list. Remarkably, these Pulled Pork Frito Nachos are not the same barbecued nachos I tried when I was in Iowa. That settles it, folks. I tried the wrong barbecued nachos. I have to go back.
And one of these days I’ll have to make it over to Kane County for the Colossus Burger. The Cougars take a fairly normal cheeseburger on a pretzel bun and jazz it up with pulled pork and coleslaw.
But before I make back to the Midwest I might be able to sneak over to Frederick, Maryland for a game. There the Frederick Keys have piled a hot dog with crab macaroni and cheese and candied bacon. I’ve lived in Maryland long enough that this sounds normal (seriously, people around here put crab on everything), but it is still bizarre enough to be a quality entry on the ballot.
And I’m just scratching the surface. Deep fried moon pies, ice cream topped with dippin’ dots, PB&J on a toasted donut, a hot dog grilled inside a quesadilla, a Missoula favorite that goes by the name “Bats and Balls”, the list goes on and on. If you can imagine it, a minor league team somewhere has probably topped it with bacon, put it on a bun (or something vaguely bun-like) and served it to hungry fans.
And that is just part of what minor league baseball so much fun.
Scores From The Weekend
Friday – Iowa had all the runs they would need by the end of the third inning, but they were just getting started. They won by a final score of 16-3.
Saturday – The day after scoring sixteen runs the Cubs were shutout 6-0. That’s baseball.
Sunday – Sunday saw another shutout, but this time the Cubs won 2-0.
Friday – The Smokies needed a big eighth inning to pull away for this 6-5 win.
Saturday – The bats went quiet on Saturday, though, as Tennessee lost 2-1.
Sunday – Another big eighth inning secured another Smokies win by a final of 6-1.
Friday – The resurgent Cubs opened the weekend with a 1-0 win.
Saturday – On Saturday they held off a late Lakeland rally to win 8-7.
Sunday – It not only took eleven innings, it took a four run outburst in the eleventh, but the Daytona Cubs won again, 9-8.
Kane County -
Friday – Kane County scored in the tenth for this 3-1 road win.
Saturday – The Cougars moved to twenty five games over .500 on the season with this 10-2 win.
Sunday – Two in the top of the ninth secured this 9-7 win.
Boise Hawks -
Friday – Back at home, Boise busted out the bats to beat Hillsboro 11-1.
Saturday – Saturday’s game went to the road team, though, as the Hawks lost 3-1.
Sunday – A big second inning carried the Hawks to this 6-2 win.
Arizona Cubs -
Friday – A run in the ninth sent Arizona to this 6-5 loss.
Saturday – A huge fourth inning for the A’s resulted in a 7-5 Cubs loss.
Sunday – The Cubs scored in the bottom of the ninth to walk off with a 5-4 win.
Performances of Note
- [Iowa] There were home runs in that Friday slugfest, but probably not from who you would expect. Arismendy Alcantara hit his 10th as part of a 4 for 6 game and Chris Valaika drilled a grand slam for his 8th of the season, but the first bomb of the game came off the bat of Chris Rusin. It was his first of the year.
- [Iowa] When he wasn’t sending balls over the fence, Rusin was on the mound allowing 3 runs on 8 hits and 4 walks while striking out 4 over 6 innings. Armando Rivero followed with 2 flawless innings that included 2 strikeouts and Blake Parker struck out 3 more in the ninth.
- [Iowa] Javier Baez finished the weekend with 3 hits, including a double. He also walked 4 times versus just 3 strikeouts. I don’t recall too many times in his career when Baez walked more than he struck out over a three game stretch. That could be a fluke, or it could be a sign of some progress. We’ll see.
- [Iowa] Kris Bryant did not walk at all this weekend, but he did pound out 6 hits, including a pair of doubles, and struck out 4 times.
- [Iowa] Arismendy Alcantara might be the hottest hitter in the system right now. He followed up on his awesome Friday with four more hits over the weekend, leaving him with 8 over the three games (including a double to join his homer). His June line now sits at .349/.395/.560 with 3 home runs and 8 steals. He should be a contender for Player of the Month.
- [Iowa] Tsuyoshi Wada pitched 6.2 innings in the shutout on Sunday, allowing 6 hits and striking out 8. Marcus Hatley, Zac Rosscup, and Blake Parker completed the shutout.
- [Tennessee] Dae-Eun Rhee struck out 10 over 7 innings on Sunday. He allowed a run on 7 hits and walked no one.
- [Tennessee] Outfielder Kevin Brown jumped from Boise all the way to Tennessee and made his Double A debut on Sunday. He finished 2 for 4 and struck out once.
- [Tennessee] Jae-Hoon Ha doubled and finished the weekend with 4 hits. He now has a 6 game hitting streak.
- [Daytona] Nathan Dorris pitched 7 innings of 4 hits, 8 strikeout ball to open Friday’s shutout. Andrew McKirahan struck out one over the final two frames to end it.
- [Daytona] Dan Vogelbach has definitely found his bat. After 5 more hits this weekend, including his 8th home run, his June line features an OPS of .986. For the month he has walked more than he has struck out. He should be another candidate for Player of the Month.
- [Daytona] Albert Almora doubled and finished with 5 hits. He is on another of his hot streaks right now, one that includes 5 multi-hit efforts in his last 10 games. Hopefully this time he keeps it going and doesn’t lapse into another dry spell.
- [Daytona] Marco Hernandez doubled, tripled, and finished the weekend with 6 hits and a pair of steals.
- [Kane County] Pierce Johnson allowed 2 first inning runs on a home run and a walk on Friday, but did not give anything else for the rest of his 7 inning start. He struck out 6. Juan Paniagua allowed 2 hits and struck out 6 more in his 3 innings of relief.
- [Kane County] Duane Underwood walked 3 and struck out 5 as he allowed a run on 2 hits over 5 innings on Saturday.
- [Kane County] Jacob Hannemann doubled, homered (his 5th), stole 4 bases (including his 28th for the year), and finished the weekend with 7 hits. His June OPS of .915 features 9 walks, just 14 strikeouts, and 13 steals. His name should be on the Player of the Month candidate list.
- [Kane County] Kyle Schwarber went hitless on Friday and Sunday, but in between he homered twice, doubled, and finished with 4 hits. In his 15 games total in June he has 8 total home runs and a ridiculous OPS of 1.609. Despite getting a later start to the month, he would also be a candidate for the top honors.
- [Kane County] Yasiel Balaguert doubled, homered (his 6th) and finished the weekend with 6 hits.
- [Boise] Trevor Clifton pitched a gem on Friday. Over 6 innings he allowed a single run on a hit and 2 walks while striking out 6. Jasvir Rakkar struck out 2 in his 2 innings of relief, and Trey Lang fanned one in the final frame.
- [Boise] Josh Conway was very effective in his short start on Saturday. He allowed nothing and struck out 2 over 3 innings.
- [Boise] Trevor Graham pitched a good game on Sunday, allowing 2 runs on 3 hits and 2 walks over 6 innings. He struck out 4.
- [Boise] Catcher Mark Zagunis made his Boise debut on Sunday. He finished 1 for 5 and, interestingly, played left field.
- [Arizona] Joe Martarano has appeared in the desert. He played Friday and finished 1 for 2 with a walk. Kevonte Mitchell has also arrived. He finished Sunday’s game with 3 hits.
- [Arizona] Jorge Soler played in games on Friday and Sunday for the Rookie League Cubs. He finished up Friday with 2 hits and a walk, and tacked on another hit on Sunday.
- [Arizona] Charcer Burks saw his hitting streak end on Saturday, but he rebounded Sunday with a two hit performance that included a walk.
- While Brown vaulting up to Tennessee is a great story, I do not expect him to stay there the rest of the season. When Jorge Soler returns, if not sooner, Brown will likely move back down a few rungs. He has had some success in Bose already this season, though, so it is possible he won’t drop all the way back to Short Season ball.
- Charles Cutler does not get a lot of attention in the Daily due largely to his age (he turns 28 in July), but even as a minor league veteran he has put up some numbers worthy of attention. His lefty line of .318/.429/.417 does not feature a lot of power (just two home runs), but he has walked 25 times against just 19 strikeouts. If Rafael Lopez is the future backup catcher for the Cubs, Cutler could be the future third-catcher-stashed-in-Iowa.
- There may be more candidates for Cubs Player of the Month in June than in any other month this season, but despite a general uptick in offensive performance from a number of prospects, I think the winner will be no surprise. Kris Bryant split the month between two levels, but he currently has 10 home runs and a combined line of .364/.457/.795 in that span. If you’re putting up an OPS over 1.200 at the highest levels of the minors, you’re probably the Player of the Month no matter who else is on the candidate list (unless the Cubs are absolutely determined to spread around the love).