On Friday night, as the Pittsburgh Pirates took on the Miami Marlins, a fan posted. unusual photo from the bull. Twitter user @Christz9 posted this: “Pirates grow banana peppers here for some reason.”
Upon closer inspection, it wasn’t the only thing growing in the bullpen where relief pitchers warmed up before entering a baseball game. There were also small boxes of what looked like pumpkins and cucumbers.
Inevitably, the jokes started to spread because of the Pirates’ performance this season. (As of Friday, the team was 39-55 in hopes of making the playoffs.)
“With ticket sales plummeting, Pirates resort to growing banana peppers in bullpen to pay rent,” Pointsbet Sportsbook’s Twitter account said. he wrotewhile another user he answered“Watching the crops grow is more exciting than the games.”
However, the number of those spikes was outnumbered by comments expressing support for the unique use of the site.
“I’m not a sports person. I’m not a plant person,” wrote one Twitter user. he wrote. “But I’m a fan of the ecosystem and the food. Good job, Pirates.”
Pirates grow banana peppers here for some reason pic.twitter.com/7flGNqkihF
— Christy (@Christz9) July 22, 2022
According to Matt Brown, director of field operations at PNC Park, where the Pirates play, the initiative began about four years ago to add an edible garden that currently grows on the suite level of the ball park.
“It’s a way to soften that space and provide something that might be a little different for our park,” Brown said in a phone call with Salon Food. “We started four years ago with nine planter boxes and now we have 5-6 different kinds of peppers, cucumbers, squash, blueberries. The main thing is that we have to buy relatively small crops so they don’t get in the way. In fact, the line of sight of the pitchers trying to watch the game .”
That’s not to say players aren’t interacting with the garden. Brown said some members of the team started betting on who could eat the ghost pepper — which has about 1,000,000 Scoville Heat Units compared to jalapeños’ 5,000 — straight off the vine. However, he quelled rumors that players were helping tend to the plants – even during the slowest game. This is something that interns are now doing weekly harvests.
“Everything collected is given to our club chef, who makes wonderful meals out of it,” Brown said.
“Everything collected is given to our club chef who makes wonderful meals out of it.”
PNC Park isn’t the only ballpark in the country where the field is used for more than just ball. One of the most famous examples was at the former Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, where in 1970, groundsman Pasquale “Pat” Santarone tended to a crop of tomatoes he had planted in the foul area down the left field line.
That sparked a friendly, 17-season feud between Santarone and Orioles manager Earl Weaver over who could grow the best tomatoes. Weaver grew his tomatoes at home, while Santorone grew them in a park using a mixture of turf and field soil. This competition continued until the Orioles moved to Oriole Park at Camden Yards in 1992.
Other parks followed suit, especially as green initiatives and concepts like farm-to-table cuisine gained mainstream popularity. Some efforts are quite large. In 2014, management at Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, oversaw the development of a 5,000-square-foot farm on a previously unused rooftop.
As Matt Monaghan wrote for MLB.com, the farm “produces about 6,000 pounds of produce a year. It grows herbs, tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, broccoli, eggplant, carrots and squash, and fans can try them in various locations throughout the ballpark.”
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Coors Field in Denver, as well as Oracle Park in San Francisco, both have farms, further demonstrating the possibilities of this distinct type of urban agriculture. The bullpen at Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres, has also been growing vegetables for almost a decade.
As in Pittsburgh, chili peppers have always been popular with players.
In a 2013 interview with Fox 5 San Diego, then-Padres reliever Joe Thatcher explained how the team was on a losing streak until the players “decided we needed to warm up as a team, so guys started picking on them. [the peppers] cut the plants and just eat them.”
Huston Street, the Padres’ closer at the time, confirmed that the peppers did their job: “We just said, ‘Let’s eat the peppers, maybe we’re hot.’ As a joke. We won that day, we won the next day, and the day after that.”
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