The $26 ballpark hot dog

The pitch:

Baseball and hot dogs are the classic American combo. But what if you take the humble frank and supersize it beyond your wildest measure? That’s what the Texas Rangers have done with their Boomstick, a one-pound, two foot-long behemoth of a tube steak that’s covered in chili, cheese, jalapeños and caramelized onions. The dog, which takes its name from the bat favored by former Rangers star Nelson Cruz, is actually part of a menu of ballpark foods-gone-wild: The Rangers also feature a $26 burger (the one-pound Beltre Buster, named after Rangers slugger Adrian Beltre) and a $17 plate of Totally ROSSome Nachos (the item is named after pitcher Robbie Ross and served in a souvenir batting helmet).

Rangers concession execs say the ginormous menu items came about when a half-pound hot dog started selling well during the club’s 2011 playoff run (the team made it all the way to the World Series). By 2012, a one-pound dog, served on its own specialty artisan bun, seemed the logical next step. The idea? To have fun with the baseball favorite and pay tribute to the Lone Star State at the same time. “Everything is bigger in Texas,” says Casey Rapp, operations manager for food and beverage at Globe Life Stadium, the Rangers’ home. But apparently, it’s an appealing enough idea that other clubs have started to introduce their own $20-plus super-sized dogs. For example, this season, the Arizona Diamondbacks will serve up a $25 corn dog, dubbed the D-Bat Dog, that runs 18 inches (and is stuffed with cheddar cheese and bacon).

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The reality:

Sure, a $26 hot dog may have a certain novelty appeal. But penny pinchers and baseball fans alike agree that you don’t have to spend that much to enjoy some grub at the game. (And by the way, this year’s season already kicked off with a special two-game series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks in Australia, but opening day in the good ol’ U.S.A. is on Sunday.)

“If you eat it yourself, you’re trying to show off.”

— Casey Rapp, food operations manager, talking about the Boomstick

For starters, while some teams are pushing the limits price-wise (and size-wise), others are emphasizing the value aspect. The Cincinnati Reds pride themselves on offering a Dollar Stand menu that includes $1 dogs and $1 sodas. And even though they sell a $25 corn dog, the Arizona Diamondbacks feature a regular dog for $1.50 (and a 14-ounce beer for $4). “We don’t want to gouge. We want to make sure fans come back,” says team president Derrick Hall.

It’s also worth noting that many teams allow fans to bring food items into the ballpark. (You can often find out in advance just by visiting the club’s website.) And fans — and penny pinchers — indeed take advantage of the opportunity. When she catches a Los Angeles Dodgers game, Jennifer Calonia, a senior editor at the financial site, says she skips those $6-plus Dodgers Dogs (as famous as they may be) and loads up on $1.50 Costco hot dogs (famous in their own way) en route to Dodger Stadium. “I cringe whenever I see patrons lined at the concession stands,” she says. As for the idea of munching on a $20-plus hot dog, Calonia says: “The only way to justify buying a hot dog that’s worth a steak dinner at a mid-level restaurant is if patrons intend on sharing it.”

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Which is precisely the point, say the food folks with the Texas Rangers. The Boomstick can easily be divided by up to four people, says food operations manager Casey Rapp, which brings the per-person cost down to less than $7. Rapp points out that the dog even comes in a special carrier so it can be spread across two laps. “If you eat it yourself, you’re trying to show off,” says Rapp, who also notes that the Rangers offer a smaller dog for as little as $5.

Either way, the Boomstick has its fans: The club sells about 20,000 of the $26 dogs a season — a cool half-million-dollar take. But Rapp admits there are limits to how much fans will spend for a frank. Last season, the club introduced a bigger Boomstick — a $32 version that added brisket and Doritos to the topping mix — but it failed to catch on. “Maybe we priced ourselves out of range,” says Rapp.

More from Charles Passy:

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