During last week’s Rockies series at Philadelphia, Rockies physical performance coach Mike Jasperson set records in a little-known but (within baseball circles) respected category: Cheesesteak eating.
Many players, staff members and club personnel arrive at the visiting clubhouse to try to put themselves atop the lists of cheesesteaks eaten. Jasperson set the three-day record at 21 1/2, and topped that with the four-day mark, 25. Before you ask, while official figures haven’t been released, the Rockies who made the trip made it worth Jasperson’s while.
“The boys threw in a little prize for me, so that was cool … that was awesome,” Jasperson said. “There was a little excitement in the clubhouse.”
But a look at Jasperson — who looks like someone who not only puts pro athletes through their paces but turns in a hard day in the fitness room, himself — raises a question. Where did all that food go?
“I went up 9 [pounds],” said Jasperson, who dropped five of the pounds by the weekend.
The contest is legendary in baseball circles, so Jasperson took it seriously. Before the Rockies began their four-game series on April 25, Jasperson and Rockies chef Tyler Hines learned rules, among them:
To achieve history, Jasperson had to keep himself in eating condition.
“I was on my normal lifting program,” said Jasperson, 38, in his 13th season in the Rockies’ system and eighth in the Majors. “But before I’d get to the park — obviously, digestion is key at this point — I walked to Starbucks, get a Venti iced coffee, chugged that, walked around town a little bit, came back to the hotel. Then I did a little warmup in the hotel gym, walked for 30 minutes, took a cold shower, then it was off to the park.”
Eric Michael, Phillies clubhouse assistant and keeper of the records, said, “I think this guy came in on a mission.”
Hines’ game plan was for Jasperson to put himself in line for the three-day record immediately.
“I started with two right away — I was pretty confident,” he said. “But, man, on day one, I was so full. The fourth one, it was right before batting practice. That was the hardest one by far. But then I came in after batting practice, put one down and I was good.”
He downed 6 1/2 the first day, with Hines pushing him hard to down the final half. His goal the second day was seven.
“That’s when a little Tabasco sauce started — I figured out that I could handle it and I wasn’t going to puke, so I just went for it,” said Jasperson, who exceeded his second-day goal by crushing eight.
The third day, he downed seven, although he came close to tossing up his chances.
“I got a little chesty,” he said, with a chuckle. “That was the hardest part.”
One record down, he ate his way to history the next day.
Jasperson surpassed former Brewers bullpen catcher Marcus Handel, a much bigger man, who held records of 18 in three days and 23 in four. (The one-day record-holder is 197-pound Nationals organization infielder Adrian Sánchez, who did it as a member of the taxi squad). Some active players have tried, but staff members have a better shot without having to play those pesky games.
Jasperson said an assistant strength coach has already announced his intention to knock Jasperson off the top of the list.
“He can eat a little bit, too,” Jasperson said.