Spring training baseball fans also show up to the ballpark not only to watch their favorite teams and players, but to enjoy the culinary delights offered at the concession stands.
Many Valley spring training ballparks offer regional fare — Kansas City barbecue and garlic fries made famous in San Francisco, for example — giving fans a treat they may not be able to get elsewhere in the Valley, while allowing others to reminisce about their home states.
In the Northwest Valley, Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers fans attending games at Surprise Stadium can visit the Battle of the BBQ’s concession stand, where they can choose from pulled chicken or pork sandwiches.
While Kansas City and Texas barbecue enthusiasts might be obliged to tell you the barbecue available back home doesn’t compete with anything found locally, many fans on Tuesday afternoon seemed pleased with the offerings.
Julie Schultz, a Royals fan who was visiting Surprise Stadium from the Kansas City area for a series of games this week, said she has eaten the pulled pork sandwiches at Battle of the BBQ’s for three straight days and that it’s comparable to what’s available back home.
“You can’t ever go wrong with barbecue,” said Schultz, who has been visiting Surprise Stadium for the past three years to see her favorite team in action. “It’s just as good as what you can get back home.”
Sun City West residents Lauren and Pete Marston have been attending games at Surprise Stadium for years. Despite the proximity of the Peoria Sports Complex and Camelback Ranch, the Marstons find that the traditional barbecue fare is what keeps them coming back.
“Honestly, we come here because we like the food better,” Lauren Marston said. “It keeps us coming back.”
Hot dogs, hamburgers, bratwursts and fries aren’t the only food items found at the Peoria Sports Complex, the spring training home of the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres.
In addition to the traditional concession fare, marketing supervisor Melissa Melton said stadium officials have added some food vendors who cater to baseball fans from Southern California and the Northwest.
Few have benefited more from regional cuisine than Kathryne and Thomas Sanders, co-owners of Off the Hook Fish Tacos, who have a stand at the ballpark.
The couple are also co-owners with Thomas Sanders’ parents, Carol and Scot. They opened the stand this season and intend to one day have a restaurant.
Thomas Sanders said ballpark visitors, particularly Mariners fans, have been clamoring for fish tacos and ceviche, a combination of shrimp, fish, cucumbers, tomatoes, onion and cilantro served with a lime and chips.
“It’s a different and healthy choice for food lovers, if they’re looking one,” he said.
Kathryne Sanders said she’s been happy with responses received thus far on the tacos and ceviche.
Melton said another hit at the stadium has been Sub Zero Ice Cream & Yogurt. Fans can watch their ice cream being made with liquid nitrogen in 30 seconds right before their eyes.
Kit Merkley, a catering manager for Sub Zero, said baseball fans have lined up to get the ice cream.
“It’s new and different, and that’s why I think people like it so much,” Merkley said.