Jul 30, 2013, 2:40 PM PST
The San Francisco Giants may have found a way to keep their clean-eating right fielder, Hunter Pence, in San Francisco for the foreseeable future.
On Monday, President Obama helped turn over a new leaf for the Giants when he announced a project at AT&T Park that would create an organic vegetable garden between the centerfield fence and the batter’s eye. Kale and all.
“I should add, even Michelle would say it’s okay to have a hot dog once in a while, though,” President Obama joked. “I don’t want everybody to get carried away and think they have to have kale every time they go to the ballpark.”
The San Francisco Chronicle has the details and artist’s renderings.
The ambitious project, dubbed the Giants Garden, calls for a 3,000-square-foot organic garden to be planted behind the center-field wall, a space between the left- and right-field bleachers that is now mostly concrete and the area where replacement sod is grown. It would be the first such facility at any professional sports venue in the United States.
Eventually, the garden would be used to supply food for the park’s catering operations, and double as an open-air restaurant and community classroom.
While the projects is being touted as the first of its kind, vegetable gardens are actually a much more common occurrence than you’d think at a Major League ballpark.
The Colorado Rockies claim to have the first ballpark veggie garden. The Rockies’ 600-square-foot garden grows tomatoes, peppers, beans, parsley, thyme and rosemary. The veggies and herbs are used as ingredients for food inside the Mountain Ranch Club inside the stadium.
The garden at Coors Field is run by Colorado State University students and Aramark.
It isn’t the first, though. Last season, San Diego Padres groundskeeper Luke Yoder planted a hot pepper garden in the bullpen at Petco Park. The garden was temporarily removed during some renovations, but it is back now for the 2013 season. Padres relievers even challenge each other to eat the hot peppers to perk themselves up during the game.
“You’re down there, you’re bored, you’re losing, you’ll do anything,” Padres closer Huston Street told self professed “chili-head” Scott Roberts. “We just said, ‘Let’s eat the peppers, maybe we’ll get hot.’ Like as a joke. We won that day, then we won the next day and the next day.”
Before the Padres had peppers, the Giants actually grew avocados at AT&T Park. There’s a single well-manicured avocado tree hiding behind the centerfield wall, where they plan to put their new garden. The tree was planted in 2003. Also, not the oldest form of sustenance-yielding vegetation at a ballpark.
In 1986, several tomato plants were spotted at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium. Long-time Orioles manager Earl Weaver was known to be a green thumb, and the popular belief was that he was responsible for the plants. Groundskeeper Pat Santarone was really the one responsible for the tomatoes being there. Weaver claimed that Santarone could grow tomatoes so big that one couldn’t fit inside a baseball hat.
Santarone passed away in 2008 at the age of 79. He worked for the Orioles for 28 years and retired at the conclusion of the 1991 season — a year before they moved into Orioles Park at Camden Yards. His plants were one of the oldest known instances of turning a ballpark into a garden of dreams, but not the oldest.
That title goes to the bullpen garden that used to be at Shea Stadium. The garden was created in 1969 by bullpen coach Joe Pignatano. He harvested tomatoes, radishes, pumpkins, zucchinis, and bell peppers. The garden didn’t survive the move to Citi Field in 2009.
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