Sushi, steaks and truffle salt: Rockies are fed well at Salt River Fields
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — To hear Colorado Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta tell it, Tyler Hines might be the master chef at a fine Denver restaurant.
“When he cooks a lot of his meat, he uses this Italian-truffle salt that makes everything taste phenomenal,” said Iannetta, a former Diamondbacks player. “There is nothing I don’t like that he makes.
“It’s all over the board. From Italian to steak to sushi and ramen. Everything.”
If fact, Hines does have a degree in culinary arts and has been an executive chef. But these days he prepares meals for All-Star players, not to earn five-star ratings.
Hines is the culinary nutrition specialist for the Colorado Rockies and is responsible for the planning and preparation of meals for players and staff, whether the Rockies are at their Salt River Fields spring training headquarters or back at Coors Field.
During spring training, his typical day begins before the sun rises when he fries about 80 pounds of bacon. Pitcher Jon Gray, who packs a big appetite in a 6-foot-5, 255-pound body, said a simple bacon-and-eggs breakfast hits the spot for most of the Rockies. Then tastes often diverge.
“There is some great lunch afterwards,” he said. “Usually they have two to three options in case someone doesn’t want Italian food that day, so they have Latin or American food. I like that they do that.”
For dinner, Gray’s tastes are simple.
“I’ll go for any kind of steak,” he said. “Steak, potatoes and broccoli is like the main meal I want everyday.”
Gray said Hines will whip up something special upon request, as long as he’s given enough notice.
But cooking is just a small part of Hines’s role with the Rockies.
His responsibilities include planning the menu, purchasing the food and preparing meals to provide players with balanced nutrition that will keep them properly fueled and ready to perform.
And he is always ready to make dietary recommendations to players who are looking to improve their nutritional habits.
For instance, he said that Rockies veteran center fielder Charlie Blackmon, a three-time NL All-Star, is especially particular about maintaining a healthy diet.
“You see the guys, once they get to the big-league level, they know how to fuel their bodies,” Hines said. “And I know how much of an impact it makes.”
That means getting the correct balance of carbohydrates and proteins, and consuming the correct type of carbohydrates.
He said players need complex carbohydrates, which provide sustained energy, earlier in the day and simple carbohydrates, which burn more quickly, closer to game time.
Proteins and foods that reduce inflammation can aid in recovery and ease muscle soreness, Hines said.
Hines has worked his way up the food chain, beginning as a line chef at an oyster house after graduating from Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. He worked in preparation and service at the Boston Seafood Show and that led to a position as executive chef at a restaurant on Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island.
He got his first taste of sports nutrition while working as a culinary nutrition assistant for the Denver Broncos, which led to his position with the Rockies.
When the Rockies are playing a night game at home, Hines begins preparing lunch at 10 a.m. and it is served around noon. Another meal is served before the game, and a third is prepared for postgame.
All of the meals are designed to give players what they need early in the day, before the game and after for energy, performance and recovery.
When the Rockies play day games, breakfast, pregame and postgame meals are available, but the players are on their own for dinner.
For that, Hines can probably recommend one of those five-star restaurants.