It's a trend that shows no signs of abating: Minor League teams temporarily rebranding in honor of their favorite food items.
Minor League promotion historians, this author among them, generally agree that the origins of this trend can be traced to the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. In 2014, the IronPigs unveiled uniforms that prominently featured bacon. The following season, the Fresno Grizzlies enhanced this concept by announcing they would play a game as the Tacos.
Over the 2016 and 2017 seasons, "Minor League teams temporarily rebranding as food" became a bona fide phenomenon. Additions to the culinary team name canon included the Rochester Plates, Albuquerque Green Chile Cheeseburgers, Reading Whoopies, Charlotte Pitmasters and Aberdeen Steamed Crabs (to name just a few).
All of the above-named entities are returning during the 2018 season, while still others are set to make their debut. These include (but are not necessarily limited to), the following:
Thunder Pork Rolls: Pork roll -- a thin-sliced, salty, pan-fried meat delicacy -- is perhaps the most iconic food item associated with the state of New Jersey (although some insist on calling it "Taylor Ham"). The Trenton Thunder, Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees, have long served pork roll-based concession items. But this season they took it further: Starting on May 18 they will play as the Thunder Pork Roll during every Friday home game. They aren't the first Minor League team to adopt a pork roll identity, however. Last season, fellow Garden Staters the Lakewood BlueClaws played an August game as the Pork Rolls.
Binghamton Spiedies: Spiedies, a Binghamton delicacy, are marinated cubes of meat that are roasted on a spit and placed on a roll. They are a concession staple at Binghamton Rumble Ponies games, and will be celebrated in excess during May 26's "Spiedies Night." The team -- which currently includes Tim Tebow -- will take the field in "Spiedies" uniforms. The meat skewers, perhaps inevitably, resemble baseball bats.
Omaha Runzas: Few people outside of Nebraska are aware of runzas, but the Omaha Storm Chasers are raising the profile of these meat-and-cabbage-filled buns. They'll play as the Runzas on June 9, as part of a partnership with Nebraska's Runza fast-food chain (of course, Runza is known for its runzas). On this meat-stuffed evening, the Runzas won't be the only team assuming a food-based identity. The opposing Albuquerque Isotopes will play as the Albuquerque Green Chile Cheeseburgers.
San Jose Churros: The San Jose Giants will play as the Churros on June 16, as part of a wide-ranging celebration of vending icon Paul "Super Churros Man" Cerda. The team will wear yet-to-be-unveiled Churros jerseys, with "Paul the Churros Man" bobbleheads as a giveaway item. Paul's churros are, of course, spectacular. But he is also beloved for the upbeat, playful interactions he has with the fans.
"I say, 'Churro, churro, churro time, best churros!'" he told MiLB.com in 2016. "And then I just try to make them laugh. I like to play around with the people. Because if you don't joke, you don't sell, so you have to. I try to get attention and the people like it like that."
Hartford Steamed Cheeseburgers: The Aberdeen IronBirds played a game as the Steamed Crabs last season, and they'll do so again this August. But Aberdeen won't be the only "Steamed" entity taking the field, as on August 12 the Hartford Yard Goats will suit up as the Steamed Cheeseburgers. This is a nod to a unique method of burger preparation which originated in Connecticut. Ted's Restaurant, perhaps the most famous proprietor of steamed cheeseburgers, will be serving plenty of them at Hartford Dunkin' Donuts Park on this special evening. Just don't call them "steamed hams."