The Morning Journal (Lorain, OH)

Traveling chefs keep Loons well-fed

Dodgers affiliate just finished series against Captains

- By Michael Fitzpatric­k MFitzpatri­ck@MorningJou­

The Great Lakes Loons of the Dodgers organizati­on were in Northeast Ohio to face the High-A Captains this week. They brought two chefs and a traveling kitchen with them.

To be the best you’ve got to eat the best. Or maybe it’s to eat the best you’ve got to be the best.

The Great Lakes Loons, the High-A affiliate of the World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers, are the best-fed team in the HighA Central, and they are also winning. They travel with their own team of chefs and a portable kitchen.

They just left Eastlake after finishing a six-game series with the Captains on Aug. 28. The good food is going along with the Loons playing some good baseball. They roughed up the Captains by a 10-2 score in the series finale at Classic Park. The win by the Loons (55-48) moved them into first place in the division, a game ahead of Lake County (55-47).

The Loon players are fed freshly prepared meals three times a day. They get lunch, a pregame meal and dinner, and all of it is prepared inside a gleaming well-equipped traveling kitchen.

Clay Rice, 48, and 22-year-old Max Becksteadt are the chefs. The two both put in 100-hour weeks cooking for the team and prepared the meals on the road and when the club is home in Midland, Mich.

The pregame meal, served buffet style, is typically 150 scrambled eggs, yogurt parfaits, fruit, bagels and smoked salmon.

Lunch and dinner are like something out of a five-star restaurant with entrees like chicken cordon bleu, grilled salmon and steaks, and always a starch and vegetable.

That menu is quite a change from the diet minor leaguers have traditiona­lly eaten. It wasn’t that long ago that players in the minors have eaten what they could scavage. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, leftover hot dogs from the concession stand, a stray bags of chips, all depict what players fighting their way to the show used to subsist on.

This June, a social media post by an Oakland A’s prospect with a photo of a sad-looking postgame meal that consisted of a cheese-lettuce-and-tomato sandwich on white bread went viral. The Oakland A’s organizati­on faulted the vendor it had contracted and called the food unacceptab­le.

The Great Lake Loons players appreciate the clubhouse fresh food service provided by their chefs.

“It’s great considerin­g how much we are on the field. Without the three healthy meals a day I don’t think we’d be able to perform” said the Loons’ Antonio Knowles, a 21-yearold right-handed pitcher, who is starting his pro baseball career after being selected in the 13th round of the 2021 MLB Draft by the Dodgers.

The Lake County players are all provided nutritious food at Classic Park, Captains’ manager Greg DiCenzo said, when asked about the Loons meal setup.

“We have training tables in here, too,” said DiCenzo. “The guys have plenty of healthy food here.”

The two cooks are interestin­g characters.

Beckstead, a self-described ski bum from Denver, uses the money he earns in the summer cooking for grinding minor leaguers to support his winter-time skiing habit, he said.

But he’s all business when it comes to his cooking for the Loons.

“It’s day six,” he shouts to nobody in particular while stretching his arms out as he stands near a steam table in the portable kitchen.

Day six refers to the fact it’s day six of the Loons’ trip to Eastlake. He’s clearly tired. What’s on tap for dinner that night?

“Chicken with a white wine sauce, pierogies, and a chef salad,” Beckstead said.

The menus have all been laid out in advance, according to Beckstead.

“I really like making the nice steak,” he said.

There is a budget of $500 a day for the groceries, which the cooks go out and purchase from grocery stores located in cities they travel to, according to Rice.

Rice knows that the meals he prepares aren’t going to magically turn the players he feeds into the next Clayton Kershaw, but he knows the value good nutrition can have on performanc­e.

“This helps with your craft, from recovery time, feeling better, to sleeping better,” said Rice, who sports a long, wispy, graying beard, which makes him look like a wizard or an eccentric aging relief pitcher.

During the pandemic of 2020, Beckstead cooked for the Dodgers B Team. When the games were played on the field at Dodger Stadium, Beckstead was in a portable kitchen preparing food in the parking lot at Chavez Ravine. “That’s was pretty cool,” Beckstead said. “I got to go into the stadium to take some things in when the games were actually going on,” he recalled.

Rice also cooked for the Dodgers during the 2020 World Series. He said his food was served to players on the major-league team. He agreed it was surreal to find himself cooking for a team playing the World Series in the midst of a pandemic.

“Yes. It’s so crazy to even think,” he said.

Both Rice and Beckstead were given World Series rings by the Dodgers for their 2020 work.

As for memorable moments on the job, Becksteadt’s came in 2019 when he was driving the mobile kitchen on a road trip.

“We drove through seven tornadoes near Dayton one night in 2019. That was pretty gnarly,” Beckstead said.

There are worse ways to make a living. But there might not be a better way to make sure the prized minor league prospects are well fed.

 ?? MICHAEL FITZPATRIC­K — THE NEWS-HERALD ?? Clay Rice is a cook for the Great Lakes Loons, the Los Angeles minor-league team in the High-A Central league.
MICHAEL FITZPATRIC­K — THE NEWS-HERALD Clay Rice is a cook for the Great Lakes Loons, the Los Angeles minor-league team in the High-A Central league.

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