The Major League club has put a new twist on an old baseball drill called “pepper,” where fielders surround a single batter who has to hit the ball quickly back to them. (Many teams have banned this game because it can get a little dangerous.)
Now, the Padres are playing pepper in a whole new way.
The team has planted a honest-to-goodness garden of hot peppers in its bullpen at Petco Park. It turns out the sandy soil used in Major League parks is a perfect environment for sowing the seeds of success.
“We were on a losing streak and decided we needed to get hot as a team, so guys started picking them off the plants and just eating them,” said left-handed pitcher Joe Thatcher.
“You’re down there, you’re bored, you’re losing, you’ll do anything,” added closer Huston Street. “We just said, ‘Let’s eat the peppers, maybe we’ll get hot.’ Like as a joke. We won that day, then we won the next day and the next day.”
Street is the leader of the pepper players and that isn’t always a mild task.
“A lot of times I have to be the ice-breaker, so I have to take a big bite,” he said. “Then, they get to watch me suffer for like three innings, and then they’ll take a little bitty bite.”
The Padres fans can also get in on the game; the team’s head chef plans to incorporate the peppers into condiments, appropriately called “Strikeout Sauce” and “Bullpen Relish.”