Today's baseball a banquet with a little sport thrown in

Killer foods at baseball games Oh, to be in the stands for some Los Angeles Dodgers baseball; not for the game, but for the opportunity to order the new Victory Knot pretzel, two pounds of twisted dough baked until it's chewy and served with buckets of dipping sauce. Oh, you think this isn't a healthy choice? Well, baseball friend, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

The world's most deliberate game (chess perhaps excepted) provides plenty of time for chowing down, and clubs are glad to meet that demand. For example, the Toledo Mud Hens this year began selling a new megasundae, 15 scoops of ice cream (2,325 calories) in a souvenir helmet for a mere $25.

The market leader in over-the-top offerings, though, is the Chicago-area Gateway Grizzlies. The team has become famous for over-the-top foods such as deep-fried White Castles, aka Baseball's Best Sliders. Last year the club offered Baseball's Best Burger, a cheeseburger with bacon in a bun made of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. This year it's offering The Beast, 15 burger patties served on a skewer with bacon, pepper jack cheese and a bun.

The less adventurous eater is also taken care of in one of the many major leagues parks that offer all-you-can-eat seats. At Detroit's Comerica Park, for example, an outdoor AYCE seat will set you back $65, but it entitles you to unlimited popcorn, chicken tenders, hamburgers, hot dogs, veggie platters, pasta salads and soft drinks. No, beer is NOT included.

Most major league concessions are run by one of three companies: Aramark, Centerplate Inc. and Delaware North. And while they keep up a steady flow of old standards, the companies are shrewdly adding new items to meet four trends:
  • Regional favorites like lobster rolls in Boston and fried bologna sandwiches in Buffalo
  • Ethnic foods such as fried green beans with cucumber wasabi dipping sauce at Buffalo Bison's games, and Hot Nosh Glatt Kosher hot dogs at Fenway Park in Boston
  • Fusion menu items such as the foot-long bison dogs with blue cheese at Wrigley Field
  • Healthy fare such as gluten-free beer, vegan soups, vegetarian hot dogs and fruit smoothies at the Tampa Bay Rays' Tropicana Field and many other stadiums
Of course, the staples will remain in bounteous supply. This year, the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council estimates we'll pound down more than 21 million hot dogs at baseball games; if laid end to end, these would stretch from Yankee Stadium to Coors Field in Denver.

The top hot-dog-eating park? Fenway Park, with 1.67 million, followed by Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, and Citizens Bank Park, home of the Phillies.

Even the basic ballpark meal (a beer or soft drink and a hot dog) isn't inexpensive anymore, though. The cheapest dog in the major leagues is in Milwaukee, $3.00. The best beer deal is offered by the Philadelphia Phillies at $4.50, while the Yankees surprisingly offer the best soft drink price, $3.00. According to Teammarketing.com, a baseball outing for a family of four will, on average, set you back a cool $166.25. Bromo-Seltzer not included.

On a lovely spring day, though, I say cost be damned. Like the old song says:

Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd,
Buy me some fried green beans with cucumber wasabi dipping sauce,
I don't care if I never get back.

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