Yes, you read that headline right. Last summer, when the San Diego Padres were in the middle of a terrible losing streak, Petco Park director-of-field-and-landscape-maintenance Luke Yoder decided to spice things up. Out of boredom, Yoder planted a garden full of peppers in a corner of the Padres’ bullpen. And as a bit of a joke, reliever Joe Thatcher coaxed his teammates into eating the peppers as incentive to “get hot again.”
Well, his plan actually worked. As the plants grew and produced peppers, the more the players ate, the more games the team wound up winning. It became almost a good luck charm for the team; the hotter the pepper they consumed, the better they would play. And the team won game after game after plucking a pepper for good luck.
But when Petco Park shuttered its doors during the offseason for remodeling, the garden was uprooted when the bullpen moved to another part of the stadium. Guess what happened? The Padres lost 15 out of the first 20 games of the season without a pre-game pepper. Recognizing the relationship between their wins and their spicy treats, the team asked Yoder to replant his garden in the new bullpen, and he happily complied.
The new and improved garden has 12 varieties of peppers for ultimate spiciness and strength – each one worthy of the toughest ballplayer. Yoder is even growing the dreaded Bhut Jolokia Pepper, which sits just below pepper spray on the Scoville Scale of hotness.
Aside from getting the Padres pumped for their games and serving as fiery bursts of luck on the ball field, the peppers are serving another purpose at Petco Park. The peppers will be used in some of the condiments served in concession stands within the park, like “Strikeout Sauce” and “Bullpen Relish.” Let’s hope that the Padres can keep their game as hot as their sauces this season.