A late push on the final night sent Erie back to baked bean glory.
The SeaWolves, Detroit's Double-A affiliate, defended its 2017 BUSH's Home Run Recipes win with another victory Thursday as their new Fiesta Burger managed to edge New Hampshire's Quadruple B for the 2018 crown.
"Every year we try to add a few things to our ballpark menu that are unique and fun," Erie president Greg Coleman said. "We work with our chef, Ed Coleman, and chef Ed proposed the Fiesta Burger as new addition. It sounded good, it tasted good and, lo and behold, it's an award-winning recipe."
BUSH's Home Run Recipes returned for its second year with the same goal: crown the Minors' best ballpark food. The catch? Each item had to be infused with a BUSH's product.
Erie claimed the crown last year with its "Mojo & AC Rocket Dog," a hot dog topped with homemade macaroni and cheese, pulled pork, hickory bacon and BBQ sauce. The club paired it with some baked beans last year but, for 2018, included beans within its new dish.
The contest included stadium menu items from 52 teams, and fans voted in a bracket-style contest to narrow down finalists. New Hampshire briefly took the lead Wednesday night before Erie pulled ahead when voting ended just ahead of midnight.
"We had this on the menu since day one," Coleman said of the winning burger. "BUSH's is a great national Minor League Baseball partner, and we wanted to incorporate their product."
The Fiesta Burger, as Coleman describes it, is a third-pound beef burger topped with BUSH's black beans, a slice of pepperjack cheese, bacon, guacamole, salsa and French's fried onions. It sells for $8 at Erie's UPMC Park and comes with a bag of Utz chips.
"It's done pretty well, and if history is any indicator, once folks become aware it won, it'll skyrocket," Coleman said. "The Rocket Dog that won last year -- sales tripled after that. It's done well, but people will become aware of its success."
SeaWolves' 'Rocket Dog' soars to the top in 2017
The FisherCats' Quadruple B, which finished second, includes "slow-cooked beef brisket doused in a secret brown sugar rub, combined with homemade Carolina slaw, diced bacon and BUSH's baked beans stuffed into a 12-inch tortilla and drizzled with Carolina hot sauce."
As the champs, Erie will once again get a visit from Duke, the iconic spokesdog from BUSH's. Coleman said the team will have a ceremony with Duke next month. The SeaWolves' Fiesta Burger will also be featured in BUSH's 2019 MiLB Recipe Book and be highlighted on its website. And as part of the voting contest, four fans will also enjoy an all-expenses paid trip to Erie to enjoy the burger on the night of the award presentation.
BUSH's spokesdog Duke will return to UPMC Park as a result of the victory. (Erie SeaWolves)
Coleman said the finals of the contest lined up during Erie's three-game series with New Hampshire.
"We played New Hampshire during the same exact three days of the Home Run Recipes finals -- we were playing New Hampshire on the field, the only three games they play in Erie this year. We lost all three games and all in extra innings," he said. "We came from behind off the field while they beat us on the field. What the odds of that are -- playing on the field and in the finals on the same days -- it's astronomical."
Coleman said the team plans to thank fans this season with video messages and opportunities to take photos in front of the Duke-adorned "Bud & Burger" cart, where the sandwich is sold.
"You don't win a contest without support of all these folks, so we want to say, "Thank you fans, supporters and folks across the country that felt this was worth voting for," Coleman said. "We thank you for the support and we certainly tip our hat to all the teams in Minor League Baseball -- this was not an easy contest to win and we appreciate the opportunity to come out on top."