By Barry Janoff
April 5, 2012: Major League Baseball stadiums sell food that ranges from pulled pork sandwiches and nachos to stone crabs, lobster rolls and Milk Duds popcorn.
But one old standby will likely get ordered more than any other menu item.
Baseball fans will consume 20.5 million hot dogs this season, according to the Washington D.C.-based National Hot Dog and Sausage Council's 2012 report on Major League ballparks.
That number of wieners is enough to round the bases 28,489 times, and if laid end to end would stretch from the new Marlins Ballpark in Miami to Coors Field in Denver.
However, perhaps due in part to the increase in menu options, that figure is down from previous seasons. In 2011, the NHDSC projected hot dog sales of 22.5 million; in 2010, 21 million hot dogs were projected to be sold; and in 2009 sales of 22 million hot dogs were projected at ballparks.
The Texas Rangers are projected to serve 1.6 million hot dogs over the course of the 2012 season at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, the most in MLB. The two-time defending American League champions moved up from fourth place in 2011.
Second place in this year's survey is a tie between Citizen's Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies, moving up from third in 2011, and Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox, which this year is celebrating its 100th anniversary. The Council projects that both stadiums will serve 1.5 million hot dogs over the course of the 2012 season.
Rounding out the top five are Dodger Stadium, which is projected to drop from first in 2011 to fourth in this year's survey, and New York's Yankee Stadium.
Not by coincidence, seven of the top ten U.S. cities ranked by sales of hot dogs at retail (excluding Wal-Mart) are homes to MLB teams: Los Angeles, New York, Baltimore/Washington, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Boston, according to marketing research firm Information Resources Inc.
In addition to the 20 million-plus hot dogs expected to be sold this season, the Council projects ballparks will sell 5.2 million sausages this year. Miller Park in Milwaukee will maintain its annual sausage dominance, projected to sell 900,000 sausages this season, many of those their signature Klement's Bratwurst with sauerkraut and warm secret stadium sauce.
"The variety of hot dogs and sausages offered at stadiums this year truly stands out," Eric Mittenthal, National Hot Dog and Sausage Council spokesman, said in a statement. "There are so many unique options, fans can just go to the game for the hot dogs and skip the baseball if they want. Traditionalists can still get their dog of choice, but foodies can sample everything from pulled pork to mini potato pierogies on their dogs."
"There are so many unique options, fans can just go to the game for the hot dogs and skip the baseball if they want."
Among the specialties being offered this season:
• Texas Rangers "Boomstick" a two-foot-long, one pound Coney Island-style wiener that will be topped with shredded cheese, chili and sauteed onions and the bun will be "exotic bread flown in from France."
• Boston Red Sox Fenway Frank, a steamed hot dog topped with brown mustard and relish in a New England style bun.
• Philadelphia Phillies' South Philly Dog is topped with broccoli rabe, roasted peppers and sharp provolone on a crusty Italian roll.
• Pittsburgh Pirates Polish Hill Dog, an all beef footlong grilled and topped with mini potato pierogies, coleslaw and homemade onion straws served on a potato roll. The Pirates also offer a Pulled Pork Pierogi Stacker Dog and a Reuben Dog.
• St. Louis Cardinals BBQ Bacon Wrapped Dog, a Jumbo Hunter Dog wrapped with bacon served on a fresh Fazio's bun with baked beans, a dill pickle slice and topped with pico de gallo, Dijon aioli, sweet BBQ and tobacco onions.
* Food Network Hot Dog Bars: These topping bars will make their debut in Cincinnati, Cleveland, St. Louis and Texas featuring a 1/4 lb. hot dog served on a potato roll. Fans can choose from basic toppings such as mustard, relish and sauerkraut, but can also add bacon chunks, corn chips and other unique toppings. All together there are 500 million total topping combinations available, per the Hot Dog Council.
• Anaheim Angels Cali Dog: Anaheim is welcoming their two major off-season acquisitions, Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson with two different Cali Dogs, each wrapped in a flour tortilla and deep fried. The North will be topped with homemade chili and cheddar cheese while the South will be topped with pico di gallo, shredded lettuce and an avocado sour cream.
"Like turkey on Thanksgiving, you simply have to have a dog at the game," Dan Smith, president, Legends Hospitality, which oversees food and hospitality for the New York Yankees and the NFL's Dallas Cowboys. "From a fan's perspective, they are relatively inexpensive, easy to consume in your seat, and are the ultimate stadium comfort food. From a concessionaire point of view they are easy to prepare, easy to serve, and enable us to feed the masses at a very rapid rate."
Marlins Ballpark Artist's Rendition courtesy Miami Marlins