Well, it’s hot, humid and the air is overbearingly thick. That can only mean one thing: July in the Ohio Valley.
Typically, during this month when we look for the nearest pool, shade or simply stay inside our comfy air conditioned residence, I believe I have a much better idea to make July bearable, if not downright enjoyable: Louisville Bats baseball games and eating the perfect hot dog while watching the nine-inning summertime tradition.
Since 1982 Louisville has traditionally had one of the top attendance-drawing minor league teams in the country. They are also one of the highest earners for minor league merchandise sales. Last year, the Bats averaged 7,127 in attendance and had a total of more than half a million fans with 506,030 for the year. This tradition of top attendance and merchandise sales does not happen without having something for everyone when they come to Louisville Slugger Field.
There are activities and a playground area for the kids. There is a pitching machine for those who want to see if they can still bring the heat. A picnic area is only part of a continuous concourse around the field, which includes an outfield seating berm with grass, all of which provide an unobstructed view of the action on the field. There are numerous concession stands and restrooms, plus several retail shops with direct access to and from the concourse, so you can make your purchase and get back out to watch game quickly. Of course, a trip to a Bats game would not be complete without the antics and amusement Billy Bat, Louisville’s colorful mascot, provides at every home game.
Here, you can get your favorite soft drink, soft pretzels or a double-stacked fried bologna sandwich (tell me that doesn’t sound good even to you gym rats out there). There is even a sandwich station behind home plate that carries healthier options like paninis, wraps and subs.
Still, in my opinion, you can’t properly enjoy a summer night watching baseball unless you order a hot dog. Nothing goes better with baseball than a well-dressed dog.
Very few things are as pure America as a kid eating a hot dog, watching his or her favorite team, sitting patiently hoping to catch a foul ball with the glove they brought to the game.
But once you order a hot dog, the hard part begins. What to put on the dog? The possibilities are endless. If it can fit in or on the bun, then it can be done. Chili, Fritos, chips, melted nacho cheese, pickle relish, diced onion… Man, I’m getting hungry. The point is, you can dress your dog to match your personality.
Maybe you like it plain, dog and bun only. Joey Chestnut, eight-time Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog eating champion, seems to like his plain. He once ate 70 dogs in 10 minutes to win the annual Fourth of July competitive eating contest. (This is not how I would recommend eating hot dogs. Although he makes a reported annual income of around $200K a year with contest winnings, sponsorships and public appearances, the danger of eating so much so fast are pretty obvious.)
I recently went to a Bats game and asked a couple of vendors what the most popular way to top your dog seemed to be. Although the vendors offer a long line of toppings at their booth, the consensus was a simple combination of ketchup, mustard and relish. If you’re a chili pepper maniac like myself, whatever you decide to use has to involve jalapeño or even serrano peppers. Yes, bring the heat!
If you ask someone from up north, they will probably say the only way to eat a hot dog is to “drag it through the garden.” If this sounds dirty or gritty, let me explain. Dragging it through the garden means the dog is placed on a poppy seed bun with yellow mustard, diced white onions, neon pickle relish, sport peppers, tomatoes, kosher dill pickle spear and finally some celery salt. NO KETCHUP.
However you enjoy eating your hot dog, the atmosphere that Slugger Field provides is second to none. Even if you’re not a big baseball fan, I challenge you to attend at least one game and not come away thinking how wonderful it was to see the smiles on the faces of people of all ages as they laughed, ate, drank and enjoyed a true slice of Americana. Go see the Bats, order a hot dog and let me know how you topped it by sending an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I double-dog dare you.