At Chase Field in Phoenix, the Diamondbacks have a swimming pool. At Kauffmann Stadium in Kansas City, the Royals get a series of glorious fountains. And Boston Red Sox's Fenway Park has its nefarious yet iconic Green Monster. Now, at AT&T Park, we’ve got…chard.
This week, AT&T Park and food service partner, Bon Appétit, opened the Garden at AT&T Park. The abundant and lush garden, just behind the centerfield wall, will supply greens, vegetables, and fruits for Bon Appétit’s ballpark menus. Living towers of kale and chard and planters of lavender and thyme greet you as you enter. A far cry from the peanuts, Cracker Jacks, and piss-poor beer typically found at most U.S. stadiums.
In addition to being a choice spot for throwing back a few lofty cocktails while watching the game, the 4,320 square-foot space will also serve as a culinary classroom for children in the community. Fitting for a city whose identity is closely tied to the relentless farm-to-table cult of personality.
On hand to help usher in this gastronomic era of Major League Baseball was Hunter Pence.
Pence, you see, is viewed as a bit of a health nut, especially when compared to his teammates. So much so that he’s been mainlining kale ever since he joined San Francisco in 2012.
He explained: “I would ask [Giants Chef Joe Day] for kale, just kale. And every day I would eat it. And [players] would walk in and they would be like, ‘What are you a horse? What are you eating?’ They would make fun of me. About two weeks ago, though, Buster [Posey] came to me, saying, ‘Man, Joe made me the best salad. It had lemon and bacon and kale, and it was so good.’ Now there are about 4 or 5 of us who eat the same salad. I think that’s how it starts: with us, with a garden at AT&T Park.”
Hunter Pence: cruciferous vegetable pusher. At least their colons are sparkling clean.
Though there was no Q&A with the champion slugger following the garden’s big reveal (he spent the afternoon lunching with a gaggle of children, after helping teach them the basics of gardening), I couldn’t leave well enough alone. Baseball players are known for their lack of healthy lifestyles. No man is this perfect.
“Pence,” I asked, “what’s your favorite junk food?”
“Pizza,” he revealed.
It’s no three Double-Doubles, two fries, and a chocolate-strawberry shake—à la Tim Lincecum—but it’ll do.