By Shannon Drayer
This falls into the "just when you think you have seen everything you possibly could see at the ballpark" category.
A unique sight was found behind Safeco Field this morning, as the stadium workers and TV crews that you normally see there were joined by a ballplayer. I walked in at 10 a.m. and caught sight of a familiar face: Kendrys Morales in his shorts, tee shirt and spikes, sitting on an overturned paint bucket, surrounded by bags of charcoal keeping watch over the box you see in the picture above. He was smoking a pig, of course.
Kendrys smiled and said "Good Cuban food," when I approached him. He then lifted the lid of the smoker, which sure enough contained a butchered whole pig.
Fifteen-year veteran clubhouse chef Jeremy Bryant said that this experience goes to the top of the list for strange things he has seen in the Mariners kitchen.
"Norm Charlton, he brought in pheasants one time, and we have had a guy who brought in an elk or two from the offseason, but never a whole pig," marveled Bryant. "It's amazing. It's right outside now, cooking in the parking lot."
Morales got the idea that he wanted to do this about a week ago. He had the smoker all ready and asked chef Jeremy if he could order him a pig. What Jeremy didn't understand was that it was Morales' intention to butcher and cook the pig at the stadium. Bryant said that Morales told him that he had done this about 25 times before. He brought spices and a marinade from home and got to work on the butchering and seasoning yesterday, then showed up early to get it cooking this morning.
"It was impressive. I have never seen one done that way," said Bryant. "I learned a lot. I could probably do one now, Cuban style."
When the Mariners complete their game against the Red Sox they will be greeted by a Cuban feast.
"We're making tacos, beans and rice, kind of a big barbeque Cuban party spread," said Bryant.
Before the game Eric Wedge let out a big chuckle when I asked if he had ever seen anything like this before.
"You know he beat me to the park this morning," he noted. "He was here early, prepping, getting ready to go. Good for him, you know. He was just trying to do something nice for the guys. It's a unique thing, and he enjoys doing it and he is excited about it. It's another first for me."
More from Morales, Chef Jeremy, Eric Wedge and Safeco Field executive chef David Decker can be heard on this podcast.