Whenever a big leaguer rehabs in the minors, he always makes sure to do one thing before he heads back to the major leagues: he buys the team dinner. Partially, it’s to show that he remembers where he came from, and partially it’s to show respect for the minor leaguer whose job he’s taking for however long he’s there. It hasn’t been around forever – rehab assignments only started happening in the 1980s – but it’s something that players have now been doing for decades.
In recent years, the Giants have had a lot of players rehabbing in Sacramento. So what food have they bought their temporary teammates?
Well, a lot of meat. Trevor Brown went back a couple years and pulled out multiple examples. “I remember Peavy got us a big spread of sushi, was really good one time. I think Cueto got us some Longhorn’s, or Morton’s. Someone got us steaks one night.”
Tyler Rogers was impressed by, again, meat. “We had a barbecue spread in Salt Lake, I think from Hunter [Pence]. Pretty good.”
And Ryder Jones liked it all, though the one he specifically pointed to was, well, steak. “All of them have gotten us good spreads. Panik yesterday got us Morton’s. All of them take care of us really well. We’ve never had a guy come in and not take care of us.”
But there are other perks to having a Giant rehabbing in Sacramento besides just the food. For Ray Black, speaking about a week before his first call-up to the majors, it was the atmosphere and the way the big league guys treated him that made his experience special.
“Melancon brought a food truck here this year, which was really cool. We had a food truck right here, actually,” Black said, while sitting at a table outside, behind the River Cats clubhouse. “Go up to the window and order. We had everybody out here after a game, all hanging out and talking. He was down here and Hunter Pence was here. Sitting there and just being one of the guys with them was pretty cool.”
The one thing is, as much as the stereotype of minor league clubhouse food is PB&Js for both lunch and dinner, at least in AAA, that’s not the reality. Sacramento’s clubbie has the budget to put out a nice spread, and so, while the food big leaguers buy is probably a step up from that, and the players appreciate the gesture, it’s not quite as strictly necessary as it would be in the lower levels where players hoard Chipotle gift cards like they’re gold.
That’s why, to Brown, the real standout wasn’t someone who bought food at all.
“I kinda like what Samardzija’s been doing lately,” Brown said. “He’s just been getting a bunch of nice bottles of wine and bringing them in. Because the Giants pay for our spread here, and so it’s like, what’s the point of me paying for something the Giants are already paying for? He’s just been going and getting some. Guys here aren’t buying hundred dollar bottles of wine. we’re getting the 10 and 15 dollar ones. I kinda like what he’s been doing, because it’s kinda treating us to something that we don’t get very often.”
There are a lot of ways to let minor league guys know that they’re appreciated. Steak will always work – always – and so will booze. But when you’re an established star in the majors, the important thing is to let the guys in the minors know that you see them, you’re there with them, and you appreciate them. That’s really how you give back to the next generation.
Bringing a couple cows’ worth of beef sure doesn’t hurt, though.