Billy and Son

Arlington-Billy from Rockwall (part of the greater DFW area) seemed like a nice guy. He was all business when ordering the 24 inch, 2 pound monstrosity of a hot dog named the boomstick at Globe Life Ballpark (formerly The Ballpark in Arlington) at a Texas Rangers game. He was with his son and I wonder how the two of them could possibly devour the beef behemoth. He seemed a little taken aback when I questioned him about the giant dog, but that change when the brought his boomstick to the pickup window. He, like me, seemed excited at the spectacle of such a sight. Unlike me he would get to eat it. But Billy was not glutton, he and his son were picking it up to share with two other family members. And four hungry fans is about right to make quick business of the boomstick.

Patty the Parking Lot Flagger

Arlington-Patty has lived in the DFW area her entire life. She arrives at the ballpark hours before first pitch and flags down cars to offer parking in a private lot about a 5 minute walk from the stadium. She is a fan but doesn’t attend the game afterwards. She gets a flat fee for her duties as flag waver and cash collector.

Houston-Carl provides a service. Let’s just say he practices a tradition that the Indians sometimes used on the early pioneers that left the victims a little thin on top. Carl is as friendly as they come so I asked him something I always wanted to ask someone in his “business.” Can you make good money at it? According to Carl yes. But there are days when you actually lose money as well. Sort of like hitters everyone has a day when all they do is strikeout. Today appears to be one of those days. It’s a weekday, school is still in and the Astros have not been playing well for a few years.

I also asked if he gets hassled by the police. Carl says they basically leave him alone, he said in so many words that they have bigger fish to fry. Carl is well dressed, well mannered and simply gives customers what they ask for. Since I was gifted two tickets and couldn’t find anyone to give my extra ticket to I give it to Carl. Maybe it will help take the bite out of his day.

Valentin and His Handlebar

Houston-Valentin is available for coffee drinkin’, piddlin’ and advice givin’. No appointment necessary. That is what his card says. It also says no worries, no business, ain’t go much, don’t want much. He is standing on the semi-oval porch overhang in the outfield where Carlos Lee’s fans used to handout when he played for the Astros. He is wearing a retro Astros jersey from the days when baseball uniforms were unique, colorful and looked like softball team outfits. He also sports one of the largest and coolest mustaches on the planet. That’s what prompted me to talk to him and take his picture. Valentin is my kind of baseball fan. Underneath his sombrero is just a guy that wants to have a good time, see some baseball, root for the home team…..all while wearing one cool ‘stache. 


Frisco, TX-
Justin directs people who are looking for the parking lot...the correct part of the parking lot. There are VIP sections, team sections and sections for you and me. And he has a lengthy explanation for why the privilege to park next to the ballpark jumped from $5 to $10. He tries to be sympathetic to the reasoning but I could tell that, even though he is only a junior at a neighboring high school, he know that doubling the parking price in a season is over the top. Life is good for Justin, his studies are going well and he has a sweet summer gig with good hours at Dr. Pepper Park. And...he gets to see baseball for free once his duties are done. Things did get a little exciting his first year doing the job; some addicts were using in the parking lot and one of them overdosed.

Midland, TX-Blake and Heather work the specialty dog grill behind home plate. They make the Chicago style hot dog the has become a fan favorite in most ballparks. It’s Blake’s first day and Heather’s 8th game. They speak highly of their boss Jeff VonHolle. They do love the fact they get to see free baseball along with their job, but
Blake and Heather
for Blake getting home after 10pm is a bit of a distractor. They can doctor up your dog as you see fit with either a long “Dodger Dog” like frank or the thicker, plumper and truer to nature dog that is traditional on a Chicago dog. The secret to a tasty Chi-town taste? The grilled onions.

Roswell, NM-
Chris was trying to pick up a little extra cash on a Saturday afternoon. He was a walking billboard for a local furniture store. He seemed earnest in trying to lure customers to the shop, reminding me I could find some good deals there. He has lived a lot of places, including Idaho which he finds the winters too long there. This is at
least his second time living in Roswell. He knows most of the places one needs to see in order to spend a day as a tourist in the area. He recommended the visitors center. And if you want to see alien bodies instead of just information, try Area 51 instead of the UFO Museum. As far as nightlife, he doesn’t drink any more so stays in most evenings. There is a bar down the street from where he was standing he knows of, but hasn’t been in it so cannot recommend it. 

I ran into Rocki and Bella while hiking the Bluffs Trail in Bottomless Lakes State Park near Roswell, NM. They were coming the other way and immediately caught my
Bella and Rocki
attention. They live nearby and love Lea Lake Recreation Area on the end of the trail. Both love riding out onto the lake on the paddle boat and Rocki likes picking up the turtles she finds along the trail. 

Phoenix-I met David on the Shelly Sharpe Memorial Disc Golf Course in Vista Del Camino Park in the Scottsdale area of Phoenix. We started at hole two at the same time (I missed hole one somehow). He was listening “The Wise Man’s Fear” on books on tape (on in this case on phone). He is from the Mesa area and studying accounting at Arizona State University as well as working for a restoration
David the Disc Golfer
company. His work specializes in restoring homes and businesses after a disaster. He told me flooding was the most common for homes in the greater Phoenix area. I wondered how that could be in a place that received so little rainfall. The answer: mostly toilet supply lines. Home maintenance tip of the century for me. I am changing mine out as soon as I get back. David also gave me pointers on how to get my disc to fly straight. In case you didn’t know I love disc golf but also suck at it. With a few body mechanic tips from David I have now straightened out my disc’s flight significantly. My game has improved. Thanks David.

Phoenix-Steve and Jeanette drove down to Phoenix from Wickenburg, AZ to get some parts for their ATVs. Jeanette had done her research and wanted a Sonoran Dog, perhaps as badly as I did. On the same quest, we broke dog together.
Steve and Jeanette
They are longtime Arizona residents but hail from the Chicago area. You can still pick out the area accent in Jeanette’s voice. And both are baseball fans, but Steve has been cursed with being a Cubs follower. In case you didn’t know the Cub have not been to the World Series in over 100 years. And Steve was present to witness the worst of it, the 1969 collapse when the Cubbies blew a huge lead in the standings to the Miracle Mets. But, like all Cubs fans, one never gives up hope. In the meantime, Arizona Cubbies can find solace in the Sonoran.

Phoenix-I met two women from Alabama at Chase Field during Diamondbacks game. One was in Phoenix for business and the other tagged along and brought her small son. Each inning when the D’backs left the field for their turn to bat the tyke would
Dynamic Duo from Alabama
scurry down to the dugout to try and get the player with the last out ball to toss it to him. It was close, but the little guy never did get a ball. The ladies were fun, good sports and made the game that much more colorful. And I had company to watch the post-game fireworks with.

Los Angeles-Mimi has come a long way since arriving in the United State from Iran (via Germany). She remembers the revolution that deposed the Shah well. She was also part of an arranged marriage for years, an old Persian tradition. Now, single and fabulous and living in Los Angeles she is a real estate agent and runs non-profit for battered women. She also conducts fundraisers for a local politician. One can only wonder how far she would have gone if she stayed in Tehran. Not far I suspect, and while she looks fab now….nobody looks good in a burka.

San Jose-Tracy is a vendor at San Jose Municipal Stadium. He has been hawking eats for over 30 years, including a few breaks to attend college, etc. Tonight he is pushing the kettle korn. He has a nice
delivery, not too pushy and loud enough to be heard but not overbearing enough to disturb the game. Food hawkers add something to a baseball game...ballpark ambiance. Tracy does it for the people he encounters mainly. The extra cash isn’t too bad either or being able to watch baseball for free. Over the course of his vending career he has seen some great players work through the minors. The most famous? George Brett.

Manzanillo Food Truck Lady
Stockton-I can’t remember her name. But she has been part of a team of two Manzanillo’s taco food trucks (before food truck food was cool) for over 30 years. Three decades of serving up roadside mexican food that is both delicious and spicy. I was walking to the ballpark when I saw this truck and had to have one. I plunked down $1.25 for a smallish, but very tasty taco asado. When in downtown Stockton, California hunt down a Manzanillo’s truck and let this Hispanic beauty serve you a memorable lunch.


Modesto-The movie American Graffiti was filmed mainly in Petaluma, California. But is was based on director’s George Lucas’ teen years growing up in Modesto and served as the movie’s inspiration. Feeling that, I felt the need to hit the local A&W Root Beer stand (opened in 1957) where they still serve you curbside and the waitress wears rollerskates. My wheeled server was the cute 25, almost 26 year-old Jessica. She was happy to fill me in on the ins and outs of toting food while wearing skates. An 8 year veteran of the position she has never fallen or dumped food. There one this one incident with a mop, but that doesn’t count.

Smooching Couple in SF

San Francisco-I didn't get their name and they didn't get mine. But this young couple sat in front of me at the Giants game. It was a 9-inning smooch fest. They were obviously very much in love and in the beginning of what I am sure they believe will last forever. It reminded me of another couple I knew back in the mid-1990s on a date in old Yankee Stadium. Made me smile.

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't score a discount on parking at the Seattle Mariners game. On my budget $20 to park is like paying $24 for a Big Mac. It just doesn't compute. But, unless I wanted to risk towing I was at the mercy of Katherine, the iron fisted queen of the private pay to park lot. My celebrity status did not help, and much to my dismay my striking good looks didn't either. That Katherine has a cast iron veneer that even the most charming or devious fan cannot crack. Actually, she was quite friendly and nice, but wouldn't budge on the the price to park. Parking Lot Queen 1, Tom 0.

Dave and Carl

Colorado Springs-Dave and Carl were enjoying a brew (or two) in the dirt parking lot of Security One Field before the game. Carl's claim to fame: he was at the first ever Milwaukee Brewers home game as well as the Colorado Rockies first ever home game.

Bret the Grill Master
Milwaukee-University of Wisconsin Oshkosh student Bret was grilling up some tasty brats in the Miller Park parking lot for his gang. He goes to about 7 games per year as well as a playoff game a few years back. His favorite Brewer is Jonathan Lucroy. 

Chicago-Sometimes you meet someone that has it as together as you wish you did. I found that in 13 year-old Cathal. This youngster earns serious cash selling cold bottles of water to fans as they make their way to and from Wrigley Field. This sidewalk entrepreneur know capitalism. And he has some great recommendations for local hot dog joints.

Minneapolis-Random Dude was hanging at the same coffee shop as me before the Twins game. He was initially against building the stadium using any public monies. Especially since it came at a time when cuts were being made to public education. Now that he has experienced Target Field he doesn’t feel so badly about it. He agrees it is a great ballpark, but like me, thinks teams should fund their own facilities.

Pam and Dan
Pittsburgh-Pam and Dan are from Venice, FL. They sat next to me at the Pirates game in PNC Park. Pam was noshing on some great looking stadium-made potato chips. They were on their way to Spartanburg, PA and decided to take in a Bucos game. They like catching National League games when they can. Pam said the dog was good but then again she was really hungry. And then she gifted me the rest of her potato chips.

Baltimore-Courtney was standing outside of Orioles Park. Her tattoo sleeve caught my eye. In particular the I-635 sign on her arm...since I had just finished driving on it. But upon inspection everything on her sleeve is Baltimore related. The coolest part is a very detailed likeness of Edgar Allen Poe.
Baltimore-John sells hot dogs and other food at a stand on the street that is an extension of the famous “Pickles” sports bar a few yards away. He was quick to point out that one shouldn’t judge the “Oriole Dog” until one has tried it. It consists of a Nathan’s Famous frank on a bun, along with peanut butter, jelly and cream cheese. Unique to say the least.

Asheville-”The Food Bomb.” After a super early television appearance at the ballpark for the Asheville morning show, I headed downtown to update my blog at a local coffee shop. Afterwards, I crawled into back of my SUV to catch a little sleep. I had driven most of the night to make the appearance on time. I had parked next to a little park in the center of the city, and with my windows rolled down for ventilation I was awakened after a few hours by some music being made in the park. I got up and took a look to find some folks gathered around making music and singing and also a table set up with food someone had cooked. There was also a large selection of donated food...all for free. It looked and felt like a 1960s “happening” but was really the working of “Food Not Bombs.” It is a group that advocates spending funds feeding, not bombing. Sara was the person leading this chapter on this particular day. She told me most of the cooked food was “salvaged.” That’s the nice way of saying retrieved from the dumpster. I had seen reports of this in the past and was interested to see how it turned out. The food looked delicious and everyone that took some raved about it. I had a Trader Joe’s prepared tabouli salad. Food Not Bombs does great work, turning perfectly edible waste into food for the hungry, homeless and those that enjoy food. They give me hope.

Savannah-See that shirt Tyneisha is wearing? I really wanted one. It screams Savannah and hot dog. I mean the concession people sell the hot dogs. I gave Tyneisha my card and asked her to give it to her boss and tell him I wanted one. She returned with a shirt in hand. I promised to wear it in Charleston, on of Savannah rivals. The lovely Tyneisha came through for me and made me on happy hot dog explorer.


Savannah-Cameron is 16 and has a unique summer job. He changes the in-wall scoreboard at Historic Grayson Stadium. The staff was nice enough to let me visit back there. I imagined it as some sort of cool little room like in Fenway. Not so much. Cameron is perched on a stool and slides the numbers in the slots via instructions from a walkie-talkie connection with the press box area. He gets to see the games through a slot in the wall. I asked if he had seen any rats back there since the same area in Fenway is known to house rats. No rodents...but a lot of lizards.

Charleston-everybody has a job to do at the ballpark. Julie’s is to run the inflatable slide just outside of the main ballpark entrance. For a fee, you can slide your keyster down a large piece of blown up rubber. It’s her summer job, for now, she is changing venues to a more stable server job at a local restaurant. Better hours, more hours and better pay. The worst thing that has happened to her at the slide? Getting slapped in the face by a child. We had a discussion about the lack of parenting today. And why I am not allowed to carry a taser.

Pete Kozma
Memphis-after the game I was wandering around the park taking pictures and then wandering in the parking garage helping some ladies find their car. We took the elevator up a few levels and shared the lift with a young man that looked like a ball player so I asked how he had done that night. "Not too bad" was his answer. A brief chat turned up that he was from near Tulsa as well and said his name was least that is what the slightly tipsy, overly Seinfeld-ed girls heard. I later looked at the Red Birds roster. He was really Pete Kozma...and Pete has been to the show. He has had several stints with the big league Cardinals. That takes talent. Look for Pete in Busch Stadium soon.

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