Take me out to the ballgame
Take me out with the crowd
Buy me some Fruit Shoot and Lunchables
I don’t care if my body gets trashed ...
Last week, most of the 8,138 area schoolkids who were root, root, rooting for the local minor-league baseball team during a special weekday-morning game were treated to a lunch that consisted of the following:
• Fruit Shoot, each small bottle of which contains 140 calories and 34 grams of sugar.
• Shearer’s Potato Chips, with 130 calories, 8 grams of fat and 105 mg of sodium.
• Lunchables, featuring 260 calories, 13 grams of fat, 5 grams of sugar and 740 mg of sodium.
Not exactly your typical ballpark fare. And clearly not what any responsible dietitian would order up.
But that’s what growing young bodies are ingesting these days when school groups visit Canal Park, home of the Akron RubberDucks.
Buses from 74 different schools were parked all over downtown Wednesday while students were exposed to Double-A baseball, many of them for the first time.
A nice spring treat. But Fruit Shoot, chips and Lunchables?
RubberDucks General Manager Jim Pfander says that in days of old, students were given a hot dog, chips and a drink. Then, several years ago, the hot dog was replaced by an Uncrustables sandwich — peanut butter and jelly.
“But with the number of kids with peanut allergies,” Pfander says, “we thought this would be a great opportunity for us to change to something better.
“We went with the Lunchables, which are extremely popular.”
Schools were given the option of taking the standard student food package or, for $1 extra, swapping out the Lunchables for a traditional ballpark hot dog (another nutritional disaster).
The deeply discounted tickets were $5 per student with the standard food package, $3 of which went toward the food. Most schools took that route.
The idea to introduce Fruit Shoot came from the team’s food and beverage department, Pfander says. “It’s something that’s really popular with the kids in school these days.”
Well, so is smoking in the boys room.
“We do offer a number of healthy alternatives,” Pfander points out, citing wraps, salads and a new selection, Extreme Pineapple — half a pineapple with chicken, rice and teriyaki sauce.
Although none of those was offered to the schools, students and teachers were free to pick them up at concession stands, and many did, Pfander says.
“A number of kids came with money. They also bought a lot of ice cream and souvenirs.”
And that’s one of the reasons the team makes out well financially in spite of the massive discounts. (Tickets normally are $9 and don’t include food.)
When close to 9,000 young folks roll into your ballpark, you’re also getting a long-term economic boost: Many will leave as RubberDucks fans and badger their parents to take them to future games.
With the notable exception of renaming their team after a bath toy, owner Ken Babby and his management group are doing almost everything right.
Major upgrades have been made to the stadium — $5.6 million worth, using private money — and the team promotes itself more relentlessly than Donald Trump.
Well, maybe not that much.
Even the uniform colors are far superior to those worn by the Aeros.
Attendance is up 33 percent compared to this time last year, despite some of the lousiest spring weather since the death of Abner Doubleday.
“We’ve seen a really good response from the whole community,” Pfander says. “The fans have really come out and supported us.”
As for the food — well, as long as the kids don’t buy season tickets, I suppose they will live long enough to graduate.