The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

April 22, 2013

Baseball, ice cream make winning combination


Associated Press

Baseball season is upon us. It's time to line the bases, break out the bats and cheer from the stands. For me, it signals the start of ice cream season. I scan the frozen food aisles of the local supermarkets, seeking the latest flavors for the upcoming warm months.

I'm not much of a baseball fan, but I do cheer for the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves. It's tough being a fan of two teams that are in the National League and their glory days are well behind them. That may be why I am a bigger fan of ice cream season.

Fortunately, baseball and ice cream go great together, and ice cream manufacturers and baseball teams play harmoniously together. Several teams have stamped their logos on baseball-themed flavors that reside next to regular favorites like rocky road and mint chocolate chip in the freezer section.

With the help of Citizens' Voice sports writer Steve Bennett, I came up with the idea of conducting a taste test among the baseball varieties available locally. Three teams are featured in this region: the Philadelphia Phillies, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. The Phillies and Yankees have had a strong footing in the area with their history with the minor league baseball that is now Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. Their flavors, from Turkey Hill, are featured frequently at area grocery stores. The Red Sox variety is relatively new as Hood Ice Cream is making its presence at stores.

For the taste test, I didn't want to limit it to just being me as the judge. Although I have a rich ice cream heritage (my late grandfather worked for Breyers some time in the '60s and '70s), my baseball background is dismal. With Bennett's help, Hanover Area head baseball coach Mike Zapotoski and varsity catcher Mike Sulcoski visited The Citizens' Voice newsroom to judge the ice creams. Zapotoski has been coaching baseball for 10 years and is in his sixth year as head coach. Sulcoski is a high school junior and has played baseball since age 3.

"We're off to a great start so far," Zapotoski said about the season and the team. "Can't ask for a better start."

For judging, the Red Sox, Yankees and Phillies were each represented by one flavor. The criteria was based on taste, texture and baseball worthiness, on a scale of 1-5. The last category dealt with critiquing the flavor's name, the ingredients chosen for the ice cream and the flavor's connection with the team. Zapotoski and Sulcoski were told of the team affiliated with the flavor after it was judged for taste and texture.

Ice cream No. 1: Hood's Fenway Fudge

Total score: 33 out of 45

Fenway Fudge is one of six flavors for the Red Sox. It is also the official team ice cream. It has chocolate and fudge socks with a fudge swirl in chocolate ice cream. In the taste test, it scored in the middle, averaging at 3 for taste and texture. Having the Red Sox's stamp of approval and the fudge chips' shape gave it an edge, averaging 4.33 for worthiness.

Ice cream No. 2: Turkey Hill's Pinstripe Brownie Blast

Total score: 31 out of 45

Pinstripe Brownie Blast is one of two Yankees-affiliated flavors available in a 1.5-quart container. It features brownies and chocolate fudge in premium vanilla ice cream. While it received high marks for taste (4.3 average) and texture (4), it ranked low in baseball worthiness (2.33). Despite having a Yankees logo on the front, the flavor did not have much to do with baseball. However, the packaging did not have the whole story. According to the Turkey Hill website, it is the official team ice cream with some of the proceeds going to support Yankees charities. The packaging is just as important as a team's uniform.

Ice cream No. 3: Turkey Hill's Graham Slam

Total score: 44 out of 45

Graham Slam is one of two Phillies flavors. It's a graham-flavored ice cream with a graham cracker swirl and mini chocolate-marshmallow cups. This really knocked it out the park in the taste test and slightly changed some minds toward the Phillies.

"I hate the Phillies, but I love this ice cream," Zapotoski said. "Every scoop is a different taste."

Sulcoski liked the flavor's unique qualities.

"The graham cracker tasted good," he said.

In this game, the Phillies win. Feel free to scoop up other baseball-related flavors at area stores, and don't be afraid to try one featuring a team of which you are not a fan.