BALTIMORE — When Manny LeGros went to watch a recent Orioles baseball game, he spent much of it in the concourse instead of in his seat. Because that’s where the buffet was. With a ticket to the Orioles’ Left Field Club Picnic Perch, LeGros was entitled to an all-you-can-eat buffet of nachos, hot dogs, peanuts, popcorn, lemonade, sodas and ice cream.
He could have stayed in his seat and watched the game in person — that’s the reason millions of people go to see baseball in the first place — but the lure of a third bucket of nachos proved too difficult to resist.
Baltimore Orioles fans like Manny LeGros eat as many buckets of nachos with chili as they can during a nine-inning game. Gorging yourself on food "is how you show you're a real fan," LeGros says.
“I’m closer to the food from here,” LeGros explained. “I wish someone would bring food to my seat on a conveyor belt so I don’t have to walk at all.”
The left-field sections at Camden Yards are part of the growing trend of all-you-can-eat style options in major league ballparks. For $40 per ticket in the section, fans are entitled to a buffet-style choice that includes all the above-mentioned foods and even salad — but only to mitigate the heartburn from the chili.
“Here’s the situation,” LeGros said. “The Red Sox, the Yankess, those are competitive teams. The Orioles are 33 games below .500. If the team’s gonna suck donkey balls, why shouldn’t I stuff my face?”
LeGros uses a sickly appropriate baseball metaphor when admitting he eats “double to triple” the amount of food that he would if it were not being shoveled out of bottomless troughs.
“I mostly go for the hot dogs,” he said. “They have cold stuff like ice cream. I’ve had a bunch of the ice cream. Oh, I tried one thing of salad too, because last year they didn’t have a salad. But I didn’t finish it. It’s nice that they’re trying for healthier stuff, but I’m at a ballpark.”
LeGros said he wants to take a road trip to Cleveland, where the Indians promote their all-you-can-eat section on their website with the opening tagline of, “How much food can you eat?” while offering fans a chance to “test their limitations.” He also wants to visit Detroit, and buy a ticket to “Trough of the Tigers,” where hungry Tigers fans eat nachos and ice cream out of “bottomless” metal trenches.
The all-you-can-eat trend worries some critics, like the American Medical Association, which notes that nearly 34 percent of all American adults and 17 percent of children are obese. Given America’s epidemic of obesity, they also question whether it is socially responsible for teams to set up these all-you-can-eat sections.
But baseball executives like Ed Pattermann believe that having a legion of overeating fans gives them a business advantage — even, perhaps, an edge on the field.
“Baseball teams can fatten their margins with a suite of ancillary services catering to the morbidly obese,” Patterman said. “These people will need a valet service, help getting out of their car, electric scooters, assistance getting to their seats — their super-size seats, which we can sell at a premium. Often they’ll need medical assistance at the ballpark, which is why we’re opening an Orioles medical clinic under the right-field bleachers.”
In addition to noting that the fatter fans are, the harder they’ll find it to travel to distant ballparks, Pattermann also notes one exciting plan the ball club plans to debut next season.
“When we crunched the numbers, we found that when our players dive into the stands after pop fouls, their injuries cost us millions in lost playing time,” Pattermann said. “If we pack the first two rows of seats with fat people — we’ll auction off the privilege of sitting there to our fattest and most affluent fans — their huge girth will act as cushions. If those worthless human cattle can cushion just one or two landings a year, that’s a huge difference in the amount of productivity we can wring out of a ballplayer.”
For Barbara and Steve Zaftig of Cockeysville, Md., the gluttony seats are the place to get the most value out of their trips to the park. “Everything is overpriced in ballparks,” Barbara Zaftig said. “The hot dogs are $5. The sodas are $6. Even the pretzels, are overpriced. It’s good that you don’t have to deal with any of that.”
When asked about the irony of going all the way to a professional baseball game only to ignore the highly trained professional athletes in favor of a bargain restaurant, Steve Zaftig scoffed. “No it’s better. No one wants to battle a 600 lb. man like me to catch a foul ball. Besides, eating less is un-American. It’s, like, socialist or something.”