It was former Red Sox third baseman Wade Boggs who made the topic of pregame meals one worth discussing. Boggs ate chicken as part of his many pregame rituals, enduring plenty of ribbing in the process.
In fact, Baseball Hall of Famer and NESN's own Jim Rice even called Boggs the "Chicken Man."
Boggs had the last laugh, though. With chicken in his belly, he recorded over 3,000 hits, five American League batting titles and made the Baseball Hall of Fame. He also probably has a few copycats out there. In part because of Boggs, there may be many players today who snack on the same item at the same time every day. Baseball is filled with superstitious types.
As for the current Red Sox, nobody is known to gnaw on fowl in any kind of ritualistic way. Even if they were, most of the eating is done in the privacy of the players' lounge. That's where Clay Buchholz, for one, begins his daily preparations.
For day games, Buchholz hits up the team chef for a rounded breakfast. When the team is playing at night, it can vary between lunch and dinner items. While Buchholz says he is superstitious, he has made sure not to get sucked into so much of a routine that he cannot eat what he wants.
"It's usually a feel thing," Buchholz said as to what he eats before starts, or on any game day for that matter. "When we're at home, they can cook whatever you want."
The Red Sox, who have employed nutrition experts for years, make a mission out of keeping the pre- and postgame spread as balanced as possible. They never shy away from including things like pizza or burritos, but there is always a healthy alternative and all the information the players need in order to know what decision to make.
The balance is part of the team's "food first" planning, which came to fruition as Major League Baseball began its crackdown on supplements and other substances. Essentially, everything you need in the way of nutrition is available to you at the local grocery store, if you just make the right choices.
"It’s true that if someone can consume a well-balanced diet, consisting of fruits and vegetables of multiple colors and plenty of variety, then additional vitamin and mineral supplementation is most likely not needed," said Elisabeth Moore, RD, LDN, a nutrition therapist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. But she adds for many of us, because of busy work schedules or travel, it can be difficult. "I recommend to many of my clients a general daily multivitamin to help fill in the gaps."
Also important, she said, is to eat on a regular schedule throughout the day and not skip meals.
"Make sure your meals are well-balanced with carbohydrates and protein to make them satisfying," she said.
Buchholz does make sure to avoid certain items that leave him feeling too full. Rice, for one, is sometimes eaten in small quantities on days he has to pitch, and it's never fun to pitch on a full stomach. He also never eats anything during games, not even a bite of a PowerBar.
For the right-hander, it's not so much sticking to the same foods as it is sticking to the same routine. He always eats a certain number of hours before a game, resists the urge to throw back a Snickers bar if it isn't part of the process and ensures that he has the requisite time to digest.
As far as what actually goes into his mouth, it's a day-by-day thing. Even the most memorable night of his career, the no-hitter he threw against Baltimore in 2007, began with a craving.
"Subway," Buchholz said when asked what fueled him that night.
Rest assured, it was not too filling, just the right size and eaten at an appropriate time in the day to give him everything he needed to dominate. Buchholz could not recall the exact type of sandwich, but there may have been some chicken in it.
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