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On the Ball: How to create the perfect ballpark hot dog

We've talked about a lot of stuff in this column, and I hope you have taken something away from what I've written. I also hope it makes you think about a complex topic within the sports world that needs changing. 

Today, I'm feeling far less serious. It's time to talk about a heavily debated and highly important topic in sports that's on a lighter note. 

Today, we're discussing the perfect baseball park hot dog and all other foods that compliment it. 

Hot dogs and baseball have intertwined like peanut butter and jelly for years. You can't have baseball if you don't have hot dogs. 

It's not quite known when the relationship between hot dogs and baseball began, but it started to gain traction in 1957 with the Detroit Tigers when they made Ball Park Franks their primary food option for fans at their stadium. 

Since then, you're simply doing baseball wrong if you show up to a game without going to grab a hot dog.

Now that we have the history and context out of the way, let's dig in. 

The ballpark hot dog is not just any mere hot dog but rather an art, a passion and dare I say, a lifestyle. 

Now, no two ballpark hot dogs are the same. I've had the privilege of traveling to many different baseball parks and trying a hot dog at each. I even have a list ranking each one. 

After exploring the country (really just the Midwest) and trying hot dog after hot dog, I have concocted the perfect formula for the perfect ballpark dog. 

It all starts with the steamed bun. Nobody steams their buns like Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, and it's the perfect complement to a warm hot dog. You can't have a nice warm hot dog sandwiched into a cold and stale bun – yes, I'm talking directly to you, Wrigley Field. 

Next is the hot dog itself. It's the star of the show and the centerpiece of your ballpark dining experience. There are a few things that constitute the perfect hot dog to compliment the bun. 

Of course, you have to start with grilling – you have to grill your hot dog. You can't get lazy and steam it. 

Nobody grills their dogs better than Progressive Field in Cleveland. The Cleveland hot dog is nearly perfect. The buns are steamed well and the grilling is close to perfection. The dog has grill marks, but not so much as to give it a charred taste. Progressive Field also ensures the dog remains the same temperature throughout. It's never cold in the middle and piping hot on the ends: it's grilled just right. 

My favorite hot dog I have ever consumed, hands down, has to be the hot dog at Camden Yards in Baltimore. I would drive for hours to eat another one. 

It's the perfect contrast of warmth from bun to dog with a subtle sweetness to the white bread. I would lather some ketchup on there to get a slight change in texture that comes together to create one perfect snack. 

We've gone on and on about ballpark hot dogs now, but that isn't the whole experience. 

Peanuts are also a staple of the ballpark experience. Yes, they can be messy, but there's nothing that compliments a perfect dog like a bag of peanuts to crack open as the innings pass by. 

A forgotten gem of the ballpark is the classic Cracker Jack. You all know how the song goes: "Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack." Listen to the song and buy them. Cracker Jacks are molasses-flavored popcorn, like popcorn but better. Don't buy popcorn at the ballpark; save it for the movies. Cracker Jack was made for baseball, and having a bag by your side can really immerse you into the game. 

I will end this column by saying that even if your team sucks, you should make it to the ballpark for one of the best meals in all of sports. Alas, my team does not suck. The Cincinnati Reds are 4-4 and it looks like we're primed to win the chip. Might as well give us the trophy now. 

Robert Keegan III is a freshman studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views expressed in this column do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk to Robert? Tweet him @robertkeegan_

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