Saturday, May 15, 2010

Through the Eyes of the...Pizza Maker: It's All About the Pepperoni

The following is part of a weekly series called "Through the Eyes of..." In each segment, I share interviews with or stories about those I view to be the "Good Guys."

"Through the Eyes of..." is a part of my personal crusade to present baseball in all its beauty, splendor, and goodness, instead of through hashing and rehashing all that is broken with our national treasure.

If you think about it realistically, I was destined to be portly.

Having entered the world weighing in at a whopping 10 pounds and four ounces with jowls like a Boston Terrier, it should come as no surprise that I've spent most of my adult life battling my weight. Odds-makers would say the weight is winning.

One year for Halloween, in fact, I dressed up as the No. 10 with an anorexic friend of mine. In high school, I was voted the Most Likely to Explode. And my bra size has just surpassed my wife's.
So when I came across Sara Matson on LinkedIn, I instantly knew that we just had to "chew the fat."
See, Sara, who is originally from Pasadena, Calif., has the coolest job in New England, this side of being the Hot Fudge Tester at Dairy Queen.
Sara has parlayed her college degree into a job as the Pizza Maker for the Portland Seadogs, and she is my new best friend.
Not only is Sara a professional "Crust"-acian, but she was kind enough to answer every question I could think of regarding ballpark pizza in my next segment of "Through the Eyes of..."

Civ: Do you eat Pizza for Breakfast?

Pizza Girl: No, I don't eat pizza or Chinese food for breakfast. I eat healthy all day because I'm a gym rat; I eat pizza at work because I'm also cheap and it's free.

Civ: How did you get the job as a pizza maker for the Sea Dogs?

Pizza Girl: First, I majored in Sociology. Then, I realized you can't really do anything with that kind of degree, so I printed off a Sea Dogs application on the Internet, attached a list of all the pizza experience I’ve had, and turned it in.

Looking back, it’s a small miracle that I got that job. It seems like everyone except me is related to someone else there.

Civ: How many pizzas do you make a game?

Pizza Girl: On a decent night, about 120. But it varies with the weather, the day of the week, whether or not it’s Bobble-head night.

Civ: Personally, do you like thick crust or thin and how does this affect your pizza making prowess?

Pizza Girl: I never really thought about it. As long as the pizza comes out round and without any holes, I consider it a success.

Civ: Do you have a bright future on dough rolling?

Pizza Girl: Let me clarify. Pizza maker is not my primary job. It's just my fun job. Working for a health insurance company doesn't sound that interesting, so I use "pizza maker" as my job on Linked In.

Working for the Sea Dogs is awesome, but my dream is to own my own pizza delivery place one day. I’m earning my AABA at the moment, and working for the Sea Dogs keeps me in the food industry loop.

Civ: Do you hope to get the call to the majors to make pizza for the Red Sox?

Pizza Girl: I wouldn’t mind getting traded to the Dodgers for a player to be named later. But I’d settle for working at Fenway if they throw a parking space into my contract.

Civ: How do you make just a slice of pizza as opposed to an entire pie?

Pizza Girl: We used to cut each slice individually, but it was difficult to get all the pieces a uniform size. The curved side of the pizza wasn’t the problem; it was the acute angle. When our protractor broke, we decided to just switch to making a whole pie and cutting it into eight slices. ("Make sure they know I'm fooling.")

Civ: Who is the coolest person you made pizza for?

Pizza Girl: My boss, of course. But there have been some pretty cool guests at Hadlock including President and Barbara Bush, Johnny Pesky, Oil Can Boyd and the Neil Diamond impersonator.

Civ: Do they stop serving after the seventh inning like they do with beer?

Pizza Girl: The concession stands remain open for a while after that, but the kitchen closes at the bottom of the seventh. We just make sure the stands have enough pizza to get through the rest of the night. People are usually either full or broke by then, anyway.

Civ: Do you get offended when the fans sing "buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks"? Does this give those junk foods an unfair advantage?

Pizza Girl: Is the US Pro Cycling Team offended because the only member everyone knows is Lance Armstrong? No, because he brings attention to their sport. Peanuts and Cracker Jacks merely bring the fans to the concession lines.

Once they see we offer pizza, they might change their minds. Additionally, when we walk around the stadium with pizza boxes, fans inevitably yell “Pizza!” when they see us. I might venture to say we are the third most popular set of employees there, behind Slugger and the beer man.

So no, I don’t feel threatened by the lopsided lyrics of Take Me Out to The Ballgame.

Civ: What was the best special event the Sea Dogs have held?

Pizza Girl: That’s easily the annual Field of Dreams Day/Fan Appreciation Day. The players wear vintage 1926 Portland Eskimo uniforms and walk slowly onto the field through a row of corn in center field while an announcer reads the “The one constant through all the years has been baseball” quote from Field of Dreams.

The ovation seems to last forever. When it quiets down, the players applaud the fans. I get choked up every time I see it.

Civ: Give me a run down of a day with the dough.

Pizza Girl: I get to the game three hours early. I walk past the players as I go in. While most people leave work when they hear the 5 o'clock whistle, I leave when I hear "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." It doesn't get much better than that.

We basically make all the pizzas in advance and keep them in towers until the concession stands call us. When they do, we throw some pizzas in the oven and 6 minutes and 40 seconds later, we take them out and walk them over to the stand that called.

We also make pizzas for the fans in the Sky Boxes (private boxes at the press box level, usually holding private gatherings of some sort), and occasionally make them for the press, the players, and the umpires.

Civ: What is the most challenging part of being a pizza maker for the Sea Dogs?

Pizza Girl: The worst weekend on the job was when we had several rain delays and subsequent double-headers the same time Big Papi was in town on a rehab assignment. Throw in a bobblehead night, and it was an absolute zoo. It was capped off perfectly when my colleague knocked over a tower holding 33 pizzas.

Civ: Are you a Red Sox fan or play the role as part of your assignment?

Pizza Girl: I’m a Dodger fan. I love them with everything that’s in me. But the enemy of the enemy is my friend. As a Dodger fan, you have to hate the Yankees, and so it’s easy for me to root for the Red Sox. I don’t know if wearing my Dodger hat around the park after I punch out will get me canned, but I don’t want to take any chances.

Civ: Do you have a philosophy of pizza making that separates you from the average Joe in the Dough?

Pizza Girl: Every day I ask myself: What did I do to beat the Yankees today? I figure one extra slice of pepperoni might make the difference between a good slice of pizza and a bad slice of pizza. If the fan is happy with her meal, she'll be more likely to come to another Sea Dogs game and buy food.

And the more the fans spend, the better players we can get. Move over, "Moneyball." It's all about the pepperoni.

Todd Civin is a freelance writer who writes for The Bleacher Report and Seamheads. He is also a supporter of, "A Glove of Their Own," the award-winning children's story that teaches paying it forward through baseball. The Joe Niekro Foundation is the most recent non-profit organization to join the A Glove of Their Own team and will earn $3.00 from each sale of the book purchased using the donor code JNF636 Joe Niekro Foundation.

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