Beware the Right-Handed Hitter

In any major or minor league ballpark there are always signs posted warning fans to watch for foul balls.  At every Fightin’ Phils game they play a short video clip asking fans to keep an eye on the game and always look out for foul balls or even a bat occasionally.  In the upstairs ice cream stand we have another warning: Beware the right-handed hitter.

This warning ties into the typical beware of foul balls warning.  It all comes down to the location of the stand in relation to home plate.  The stand is located behind and to the right of the plate.  When a left-handed batter is in the box, he is on the same side of the plate as the ice cream stand with his back facing the stand and it is very rare for a foul ball to go behind the hitter.  When a right-handed batter is up, he is standing to the left of home plate which faces his body towards the upstairs ice cream stand.

Typically, when a batter hits a foul ball, it flies out towards the outfield or along the third or first baselines.  Depending on the type of pitch thrown and how early or late the bat makes contact, the ball will go up behind the plate, usually in the direction the batter is facing.  This is when we duck and cover in the stand.

The upstairs ice cream stand has taken more hits from foul balls than I can count.  If you look at the front of the stand you can see marks along the bottom where foul balls have chipped the paint.  We’ve had more close calls than anything else, but there have been one or two balls that actually make it through the window and off the back wall of the stand.  The container of plastic spoons that sits on the front of the counter has even taken some hits.

We’ve learned to keep a watchful eye on the field anytime a right-handed batter steps up to the plate.  At least one of us will yell, “heads up” if a ball looks like it is heading in our direction.  On some occasions we become easily spooked – usually after a few balls have already come our way – and we seek safety at every gasp or shriek from the crowd.  We have gotten so accustomed to watching foul balls that are heading our way that sometimes the ball seems to be moving in slow motion.  We stand there watching and thinking that it will never reach us and then at the last minute we find ourselves jumping away from the window or crouching down behind the soda machine.

It can be nerve-wracking trying to keep an eye on the batter during the game.  If we get busy in the middle of the game, it can be difficult to watch what is happening on the field and still help the customers in a timely manner.  We just hope the ball doesn’t come our way and if we hear someone yell heads up, we get out of the way.  I’m sure it’s amusing to watch us whenever a foul ball is hit.  Despite the occasional hazards of foul balls, I wouldn’t want to work in any other stand.

If you ever find yourself at a Fightin’ Phils game sitting in one of the sections around the ice cream stand remember this important message: Keep your eyes on the game and beware of the right-handed hitter!

Ask a silly question…

Working in food service, as with any job, you find that people ask some of the most outrageous questions.  Baseball fans are no exception.  Here are some of my favorite questions that we have been asked at the upstairs ice cream stand.

Question:  Do all the ice cream stands sell the same ice cream?

It amazes me how many people ask this question.  There are three ice cream stands in FirstEnergy Stadium and yes, we all sell the same two flavors of ice cream.  The question usually arises when someone asks for a flavor that we do not sell and they are hoping that one of the other stands has it.

Question:  Do any of the stands sell Coke products?

Every year the Fightin’ Phils season is sponsored by Pepsi – they play a Pepsi commercial before each game explaining this.  If you turn right out of the main parking lot and drive straight, you will pass the Pepsi warehouse.  You could even walk there if you wanted to, one building sits between the two locations.  As a result, all of the concessions stands sell Pepsi products and only Pepsi products.  I prefer Pepsi so this has never been a big deal to me, but, understandably so, we always have a few fans each season who are upset that they can’t have a Coke during the game.

Question:  Are sprinkles a topping?

This question baffles me every time it gets asked and we hear it at least once a season.  I can never figure out what other item customers imagine it might be.  The price tells you right away that it’s not an ice cream flavor – they cost $0.75 where as the cheapest ice cream is $3.50.  There really is no other possibility for sprinkles other than as a topping. We have, however, given kids sprinkles in their hands once or twice – we just hope they don’t tell their parents how they spent their $0.75.  If anyone can figure out another use for sprinkles other than as a topping, please let me know!

Question:  Do you sell hot dogs in this stand?

If you’ve never seen the upstairs ice cream stand, picture this: Take you average shed and cut a large window in the front and a door on the end.  Now add two freezers, a soda machine, a register, and a little bit of counter space.  That is the stand.  When a customer comes to the window they can view the entire interior of the stand with the exception of under the counters.  Trust me, I am not hiding a grill full of hot dogs next to the motor of the soda fountain.  The best detail about this question is that it always comes after the customer has stared at the inside of the stand and at the menu for at least a full minute.

Question:  Can I get another mini batting helmet for my child at home?

The answer to this question is simple: yes you can, for $4.50.  What gets me about this question is that people assume that they can have a helmet for free if there is no ice cream inside it.  That’s not how it works.  You are more than welcome to take a clean, empty helmet home with you, but it will cost the same as a helmet full of chocolate ice cream.

Question: Do you have a fork?

Although it is rarely asked, this question does come up from time to time.  Now, I don’t remember eating ice cream with a fork when I was younger (unless it was an ice cream cake), but maybe times have changed.  If your child wants to sit and stab at each and every Dippin’ Dot in their cup, I say go for it.  Unfortunately we only have spoons available at the ice cream stands.

Question: Do you have a sink that I could use?

This question gets asked quite often during the season.  It always comes from parents who find themselves stuck with a mini batting helmet covered in the remains of chocolate or vanilla ice cream.  Their children have eaten all they can and now want to take the souvenir helmet home with them.  The parents are stuck with the task of finding a way to clean off the helmet before it gets stuffed into a bag.  I understand they want to save time by not having to go downstairs to the bathroom sinks, but we are unable to help them out.  If you refer back to the image described in the hot dog question, you will see that there is no room for a sink in our stand and that it’s pretty obvious we don’t have one when you are at the window.

Question: Are you closing?/Are you closed?

In order to understand the ridiculous nature of this question, there is one more important detail about the stand you must know.  When we want to close for the night, we have to walk out of the stand and pull down the window that runs the entire length of the stand.  it is very similar to a food truck that has a window that opens up instead of sliding side to side.  The question has two forms and comes at two possible times.  Someone will generally ask the first form of the question when Ariane is standing out in front of the stand in the process of lowering the face of the window.  The second form of the question always comes later, after the window is closed and latched and we have started cleaning everything.  Without fail, once a home-stand we will get asked this question and the person who asks always seems surprised when the answer is yes, we are closed.

We get asked a lot of strange questions throughout the summer and these are a few of the ones that I find truly amusing.  I am sure there will be more to add to the list after this summer, but until then, enjoy these tidbits of what life is like on my side of the counter.