Baseball Clubs Pitch Players A Menu Change-Up

Giants chef Joe Day in the kitchen with some of his dishes. i i

Giants chef Joe Day starts early to make enough food for more than two dozen hungry players. "Everything that I'm cooking now, it's kind of twisting around recipes and not telling them what's going on," he says. Andy Kuno/Courtesy of the San Francisco Giants hide caption

itoggle caption Andy Kuno/Courtesy of the San Francisco Giants
Giants chef Joe Day in the kitchen with some of his dishes.

Giants chef Joe Day starts early to make enough food for more than two dozen hungry players. "Everything that I'm cooking now, it's kind of twisting around recipes and not telling them what's going on," he says.

Andy Kuno/Courtesy of the San Francisco Giants

Baseball players have something new to chew on: In the past few years, major league teams have thrown out fatty foods. At least a third of baseball clubs are recruiting nutritionists to make game day spreads healthier. Now, players are more likely to eat baby carrots than a Baby Ruth.

Baseball hasn't exactly been the model of a healthy lifestyle. Hall of Famer Babe Ruth was almost as famous for his belly as his batting. Some days, he downed up to a dozen hot dogs before a game.

And it's even hard for fans to watch what they eat at baseball games. Vendors parade trays of treats past every seat in the stands. Inside, the main concourse is a gauntlet of greasy goodies.

That's OK with Barbara Craft, who has season tickets for Giants games. She says that even in organic-local-food-obsessed San Francisco, fans crave take-me-out-to-the-ballgame snacks: "Hot dogs, garlic fries, Diet Coke, peanuts, oh, and Ghirardelli hot fudge sundaes here — they're the best."

Craft heads straight for Gilroy Garlic Fries on game day, but she expects more from the team.

"Their physical health is a big part of their livelihood. And eating right and eating healthy is going to make them that much better in their job," she says.

But left-handed pitcher Barry Zito says the Giants' clubhouse spreads were still full of convenience store snacks until recently.

"There was every candy bar you could imagine right there at our disposal, every ice cream treat, and hot dogs, hamburgers," he says. "You'd be amazed what professional athletes get fed every day. It's probably worse than, you know, [what] the kids of America are eating."

This season, the team tossed the junk food and brought in a young chef from a five-star restaurant.

Joe Day starts early to make enough food for more than two dozen hungry players. He dons a black chef coat over a T-shirt, jeans and skateboarding shoes. The 25-year-old says he bonds with the team over bands like Kings of Leon. Then, he deceives them.

"Everything that I'm cooking now, it's kind of twisting around recipes and not telling them what's going on. Like, I'll make beef stroganoff without, like, any sour cream or anything in it. I'll make tuna salad without mayonnaise. But it gets annihilated. Or even chicken salad," he says. "I'll make, like, a mango relish or something like that — they love it."

Day says the players won't eat food that doesn't taste good. So he'll make French toast with white bread, but he draws the line at other foods.

"They still ask me for bacon. I'm not deaf. I hear it. I just don't necessarily want to respond," he says.

Players eat two to three meals a day at the clubhouse, and Chef Day's game plan isn't a hit with everyone.

"It's a little healthy for my taste," says Tim Lincecum, one of the Giants' star pitchers. "I like to eat more McDonald's style, you know, In-N-Out Burger, Subway, Quiznos kind of stuff."

Lincecum doesn't think food affects his performance. The trim 25-year-old won the Cy Young Award for best pitcher in the National League last year — before the menu change.

Older players like outfielder Rich Aurilia appreciate the lean meals, but struggle to eat right on the road, especially in Philadelphia.

"As much as you want to stay healthy ... you have your vices — and cheese steaks are one of mine," he says.

The Philadelphia Phillies were one of the first teams to ban fatty foods. They stick to their diet on the road by asking other clubhouses not to serve junk. Day wants to do the same for the Giants. Then he would only have to worry about the off-season, when players tend to slide into bad habits.

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