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Grazing in the Bullpen

July 29, 2001|Gary Libman

Cultivating a superior baseball team is an art worthy of Machiavelli, and winning strategy is hardly confined to the playing field. There's the farm system. There's trading. There's the rotation roster. And then there's . . . noshing.

Hidden from the media, fans and other distractions in an unobtrusive room at one end of the Dodger clubhouse is a secret weapon: the snack room. "No question, it is very important," says second baseman Mark Grudzielanek. Players, who usually arrive at the stadium between 1 and 3 p.m. for a 7:10 p.m. game, can eat in the room (which doubles as a players lounge) any time before the game or step in for a quick energy boost during the contest. The menu includes cereal, candy, power bars, pizza, chicken tenders and hamburgers supplied by clubhouse attendant Carlos Robles, 32, of Lincoln Heights. The room's two refrigerators are stocked with bottled water, sodas, juices, fruits and cheese, eggs, tuna, turkey, ham and other sandwich fillers.

Robles says players usually nosh during the afternoon, standing or sitting around the room's four tables, and then eat a light meal around 6 p.m. "That's basically our time to load up and get ready because you go from 6 o'clock to 11 o'clock without eating again," says catcher Chad Kreuter. "It's like being at home and scrounging through the refrigerator and seeing if there's anything left."

For his part, star relief pitcher Jeff Shaw usually grabs a sandwich and a Diet Coke an hour before game time. In the third inning, Shaw returns for a licorice and a cola, watching the game on TV to clear his mind for a possible appearance in the ninth inning, when he usually pitches.

Eating the right amount at the right time helps avoid cramping or feeling bloated in the early innings, says Grudzielanek. Dodger Dogs, incidentally, are served only on request.

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