SAN FRANCISCO — The legend wafts through baseball like the aroma from a bakery. Listen closely and you can hear clubhouse attendants speak of it in hushed tones. Players’ eyes widen as they debate the feasibility. Did Babe Ruth call his shot? Did Mickey Mantle really hit a ball 600 feet?
Who cares? If the rumors are true, the most amazing achievement in baseball history occurred in 2016, in the visiting clubhouse at what was then known as AT&T Park.
Adam Jones, did you really eat a dozen glazed doughnuts before a game, then go 1–4?
“Where have you heard this from?” demands Jones, then of the Orioles and now of the Diamondbacks. “That’s legendary-type stuff. That’s diabetes waiting to happen.”
“I can’t reveal my source, which is me.”
Maybe it’s better left a mystery, a tall tale to encourage veterans and terrify rookies. The purest, most joyful tradition in the major leagues is that of Day Game Doughnuts. No one knows how it began, but nearly every team partakes. Arrive at the ballpark a few hours before 1 p.m. first pitch, enjoy the breakfast treat awaiting you. Four dozen or so can generally feed a 25-man roster, plus coaches and assorted personnel. And they go fast. Baseball players are not, perhaps, the professional athletes most likely to treat their bodies as a temple. “We’re all fat,” says Jones. “You go into your office in the morning, there are doughnuts. This is an office. A night game, we get here at 1, then no, but if we’re here at 8, yeah, doughnuts are acceptable.”
This was easy in the days of Jones’s sweet feat, back when visiting clubhouse attendants were responsible for feeding incoming teams. Then came what Giants visiting clubhouse manager Abe Silvestri calls “the doughnut crisis of the collective-bargaining agreement.”
The CBA that took effect for the 2017 season is often known as the one that helped crush free agency as we know it. That was the least of Silvestri’s worries. Suddenly visiting teams controlled their own food. And not just visiting teams. Visiting team nutritionists. Now you had 29 people calling ahead to request that clubbies stock turkey bacon and remove soda. Silvestri agonized. The two most common requests he gets, he says, are Can you get my cousin a parking space? and Where are the doughnuts?
It all worked out in the end. The essential rule of clubhouse attendants is giving the players what they want. That remains true.
“All it takes is one player,” Silvestri says. “Even when there’s a nutritionist who travels with the team and is sitting in the dining room. It doesn’t have to be a big-name player—if a player requests doughnuts we have to get ’em.”
The logistics are a bit more complicated now. Everyone wants doughnuts, but sometimes teams forget to ask the night before, and he can’t just provide them. This leaves Silvestri driving to the park the morning of a day game, anticipating the dismay he will face. But usually players remember, and Silvestri dispatches an underling to Bob’s, or Seven Star, or even Christy’s. Once a staffer was rushing back with doughnuts and hit a pedestrian. (Both the pedestrian and the doughnuts survived unscathed, although the doughnuts were late.) Sivestri gets so many questions about doughnut status that last month he created a chart that he affixes to the wall and checks off. It includes options such as:
SLOW NUTS: Our guy is on his way but he hit traffic. Relax, they’ll be here.
LOW NUTS: Healthy doughnuts: Low sugar, low taste, low fun.
PO NUTS: Poor quality cheap-ass doughnuts.
SHOW NUTS: This is what doughnuts taste like in the Show. You’re welcome.
He expects to add a digital board with the information by next season.
Not every team is as organized as the Giants, but every team has some sort of doughnut operation. And nearly every player has opinions.
A’s leftfielder Khris Davis favors Lee’s doughnuts in Oakland. Second-year reliever Lou Trivino is responsible for picking up a few dozen before home day games. “Baseball’s pretty boring,” says Davis. “doughnuts are way more fun.”
Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant lights up as he describes Rose doughnuts in San Diego. “I’m so glad you asked me about this,” he says. His favorite are red velvet, but he’ll eat anything that isn’t too fluffy. The Padres’ clubhouse attendants make sure to have a box waiting for him every time he’s in town.
Mets third baseman Todd Frazier brings his own from home—and not just for day games. Over a 10-game homestand he might show up with doughnuts eight times. He hides them in the clubhouse, because if he leaves them in the cafeteria, the nutritionist yells at him. “The old saying goes, ‘To hit a sinker, you gotta eat a sinker,’” he says. “So I might have four before the game, just in case, ‘cause I wanna get four hits. … And I have to make sure [pitching coach] Phil Regan gets one every day, or he’s gonna be cranky, and that’s not what you want from an 82-year-old man.”
San Francisco is among Frazier’s favorite road cities. Silvestri usually orders from Bob’s, which along with its normal-sized doughnuts offers one the size of a small life preserver. (Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly’s wife bought him one for his birthday.) Weeks after the trip to the Bay, Frazier is still overcome when he thinks of them. “Phil was almost in tears, that’s how excited he was,” he says.
Jones, of course, gives the most thorough answer. He has no patience for po nuts, he says. Hearing the name of a famous chain, he interrupts. “Dunkin? Dunkin doughnuts? It’s not a good doughnut. Dunkin’s not a good doughnut. It’s not a good doughnut. I’ll eat a Yum Yum doughnut, the gas station doughnut, before I eat Dunkin. They’re a conglomerate. If they want to do a deal with me I’ll eat a dozen of them on camera, I don’t give a s---, but in my opinion, it’s not good.”
As for the road offerings: “Last year I ranked ’em. I remember Oakland was up there. Pink box. California has a thing about pink boxes. The doughnuts are bomb. Shipley in Dallas. Randy’s in L.A. The Local doughnut in Arizona. Everybody likes BoSa, but I like Local. Atlanta had some fire doughnuts. They had mini doughnuts in Tampa, which was amazing, cause you didn’t feel bad about eating 40. My favorite one in Baltimore was Fractured Prune. Fractured Prune? You have doughnuts? I thought you had jellies. I forgot the name of the one in San Diego, but it came in a pink box, so you know it’s good. The pink box’ll tell you. Colorado was good: Voodoo. I’ve made my way around every damn team, and I’ve had doughnuts in every city.”
O.K., but come on. That dozen in San Francisco. Did you eat them all?
Finally, the sultan of sprinkles, the colossus of cream, the prince of pastry breaks into laughter.
“Housed. Housed them.”