In a battle for all the beans, Erie's Mojo & AC Rocket Dog took the prize.
The Double-A SeaWolves' hot dog topped with pulled pork, bacon and mac and cheese, and served up with a side of baked beans, rode a wave of local support to win the BUSH'S Beans Home Run Recipes contest on Tuesday.
"We're pumped -- this is a such a great honor to be recognized nationally," said Greg Gania, the SeaWolves' assistant general manager and communications director. "We put in a lot of hard work and effort to not only create the item, but to promote the item. It's a thrill for us, for [radio station] Rocket 101 and for our local hot dog company to be recognized on a national scale."
The contest challenged Minor League teams to create a tasty stadium snack that incorporated or paired well with a BUSH'S product. Erie's savory frank, overflowing with BBQ sauce and made to order, narrowly edged Round Rock's Charred Romaine Salad and Sacramento's Burger for the Seoul to take the top prize among 64 total contenders. The hot dog received some late support from local radio and TV stations in Pennsylvania.
Video: The SeaWolves show off the Mojo and AC Rocket Dog
Gania said the Mojo & AC Rocket Dog was conceived this past offseason by the team's chef, Ed Coleman. It was introduced to the ballpark menu on Opening Day and was a no-brainer when the team was asked to create or nominate an item for this year's contest.
"It's a meal," said Gania. "That's the best way to describe it -- it's an absolute meal."
The dish is a freshly grilled hot dog made by Smith's, a local company, and topped with homemade macaroni and cheese, pulled pork, hickory bacon and BBQ sauce. Erie paired it with BUSH'S Original Baked Beans for the contest and named it after two local radio station personalities, Mojo and AC from Rocket 101's morning show.
Gania said the item is all fresh and made to order, with the team using an in-stadium smoker for the pulled pork. It's available at just one location inside Erie's UPMC Park, Smith's Sausage Shack.
"It's got a jumbo hot dog, generous heaps of pulled pork, bacon, mac and cheese, and the BBQ sauce on top," Gania said. "The best way to describe it is it's not just a hot dog, it's a full meal."
It's also in contrast to Round Rock's comparatively healthy plate -- a salad featuring grilled and seasoned romaine lettuce, charred bell peppers, grilled chicken, tomatoes, BUSH'S Black Beans, oven-roasted corn, sliced Parmesan and a green onion vinaigrette.
Erie edged out Round Rock's "Charred Romaine Salad" and Sacramento's "Burger for the Seoul."
Gania said the thought of losing to a salad galvanized fans to vote.
"When we were losing to them, that's something the local media picked up on -- they were pushing it saying, 'We can't lose our local hot dog to a salad.' That was one of the rallying cries. When we brought it up on ABC on Friday, we were in third place behind Sacramento and Round Rock. The anchors just rolled with it. Between them and Mojo and AC, they all said, 'We can't lose to a salad. We have to get out and vote.'"
Sacramento's burger is a spin on Korean BBQ. It features two beef patties, spicy kimchi, crispy onions, Korean BBQ sauce and a side of BUSH'S Sriracha Beans. Pensacola fully embraced the bean theme -- it cooked up waffles made from BUSH's Seasoned Recipe Black Beans topped with pulled pork, zucchini and apple salsa. Other top finishers included Birmingham's Southwest Egg Rolls, Pawtucket's Smoked Black Bean Burger, Williamsport's Timberbeast and Binghamton's Belly Rumbler.
• View all the entries in the BUSH'S Beans Home Run Recipes contest »
Gania said Erie's hot dog has been a popular item all season, even before the contest. He said the club aimed to feature a local product that would taste good and satisfy the local radio jocks, who had been nagging the club for a signature dish for years.
"The morning hosts, Mojo and AC, have been bugging us for years to find an item, and they're the most popular guys in town," said Gania. "In February or March, we went to our chef, Ed Coleman, and said, 'We gotta have something for these guys this year. As crazy as you want it to be, but we need it to go with the morning crew.' He came up with the idea. We said, 'Let's test it out and see.' We unveiled it on Opening Day, the radio station broadcasted live and that was the first day -- it's been selling like crazy ever since."
The Mojo & AC Rocket Dog sells for $7.50 at the ballpark in Erie. BUSH'S Beans will also be sending a grand prize winner and three guests to the stadium to try out the meal, although the winner has not yet been chosen.
Gania said the win was all fueled by local energy. He said a recent motorcycle rally, Roar on the Shore, helped spread the word even more when the radio station urged bikers to vote on their phones.
Of course, it also tastes really good. Gania said he's eaten more than he'd admit to this season.
"It's a really a tasty item. The items all go together," he said. "One of the things for us is we don't pull the pulled pork out of a can. The hot dogs are grilled fresh every night, and they grill up the dogs made to order. Ed smokes the pulled pork in house. He makes the mac and cheese from scratch. The flavors all go well together and it makes it such a good item and it makes it work. It's fresh and made daily, so that helps enhance the flavor."