August 28th, 2019 wasn't just any evening at Pfitzner Stadium. It was the Potomac Nationals penultimate home game. The end of the season loomed and, just beyond that, a move 30 miles south to a new ballpark in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
I was in town to say goodbye to the Pfitz (as it was colloquially called), a no-frills facility that had hosted Carolina League Baseball since opening in 1984. There wasn't much of a crowd on this wet, overcast Wednesday, and the ballpark's concessions could adequately be described as "scarce." Many of the stands were already closed; the few that remained offered steep discounts on the remaining inventory.
But the show must go on. I'm a man of routine, and if I'm at a ballpark then I need a Designated Eater. This individual would be tasked, as always, with eating the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits. On this anomalous evening, my Designated Eater was one Jennings Compton.
Jennings is a native of Laurens, South Carolina, located approximately 40 miles southeast of Greenville. As such, his first association with Minor League Baseball was attending Greenville Braves games at (now defunct) Greenville Municipal Stadium. He's always been a baseball fan but these days he finds the most joy in the Minor Leagues. In his Designated Eater application (read: an email), he explained why:
"You can truly experience the culture and local lore of a place through the team and the ballpark. I feel that a Friday night name in Biloxi or a Wednesday morning School Trip Game in Johnson City is a way to immerse yourself and get a look behind the curtain into the lives of those people that call the cities and towns hosting these teams home."
Jennings has attended Minor League games at over 80 ballparks, which is one of the perks of his job. He's a merchandise manager for touring bands and musicians, and in that capacity has worked with everyone from Third Eye Blind to Paul McCartney. This line of work has also led, however improbably, to a burgeoning stand-up comedy career.
"I've been doing stand-up for two years," said Jennings, who estimates that he's on the road 300 days a year. "It started when I was working for bands and I'd have to stall for time on stage when there were technical difficulties. I'd go up there to pacify the crowd. Just start riffing and improvising jokes, and that turned into my shtick. I tour with bands and do music festivals, not comedy clubs."
Jennings was able to attend that evening's Potomac Nationals game because he was en route from South Carolina to a music festival in Wanaque, New Jersey. We began at The Logan's Sausage Stadium Grill, one of the few auxiliary concessions stands in the ballpark that was still in operation. Logan Sausage, founded in 1987, is based out of Alexandria, Virginia.
The menu listed four varieties of sausage: Italian, Polish Kielbasa, Cheesy Brat and Mexican Chorizo. Jennings and I decided that Mexican Chorizo seemed like it was the most unique, but the young woman working the counter told us "I only have one Cheesy Bratwurst and one kielbasa." As in, she only had two sausages left to sell.
We got the Cheesy Bratwurst, the penultimate sausage sold on the penultimate night of the P-Nats Pfitzner Stadium tenure. I'm writing about it in this, the penultimate Designated Eater article of the year.
Jennings commandeered a table at the picnic area, located just past Pfitzner Stadium's main entrance, and prepared for sausage consumption.
"It's very good. There's a crunch to it, so the sausage is cooked well. There's no negative to it, except that it's the most exciting thing here," said Jennings.
Indeed, there wasn't anything exciting to sample. This was attributable to circumstance more than anything else, but nonetheless the dearth of options was a bit dispiriting. Jennings and I scanned the menu of the main concession stand, a rectangular structure serving as a buffer between the picnic area and concourse, and searched for his next course. For the princely sum of $5.50 (everything must go!) we purchased both a hamburger and a funnel cake.
Jennings then set to work, turning it into the first and last Funnel Cake Burger ever sold at Pfitzner Stadium.
"We're gonna improv here..."
"You can't go wrong with the savory sweet combination," said Jennings. "The burger is reminiscent of a backyard barbecue, and a funnel cake you can't go wrong if it's nice and crispy like this one is. It's a match made in junk food heaven."
The Funnel Cake Burger marked the end of Jennings' brief but memorable stint as a Designated Eater. Wear it with pride, sir. Wear it with pride.