Loria cooks up book on players' culinary skills

Loria cooks up book on players' culinary skills

Loria cooks up book on players' culinary skills
MIAMI -- Contact 20 MLB All-Stars, conduct interviews and collect 60 of their favorite recipes. Chronicle them in 182 pages, and you have all the ingredients for a groundbreaking cookbook.

For a little more than two years, Julie Loria has combined her passions for food and baseball, blended them together and she has now launched, "Diamond Dishes: From the Kitchens of Baseball's Biggest Stars." Published by Lyons Press, the book went on sale Friday and can be purchased on MLB.com.

Featuring nearly 100 exclusive photos of players at their homes and in their kitchens, Diamond Dishes delves into the eating habits and family traditions of such baseball greats as Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, Josh Johnson, Hanley Ramirez and Derek Jeter.

Loria, the wife of Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, is a lifelong baseball fan and food connoisseur.

"My passion for baseball started when I was a little girl," she said. "I loved baseball, thanks to my father, who passed down his passion of baseball to me. I've always loved watching games.

"We always had a game on the radio or on the television in the summers. It was on the radio when I was outside. Occasionally, I'd go to a game. I combined that passion with my other passion, which is food and cooking. Having those two passions are something that's stayed with me. I'm thrilled that I've been able to merge those two together and put them in a book, Diamond Dishes."

Working around the clock, she set up interviews with each player and followed them up with visits to their homes.

"It's all about comfort food -- meals you grew up eating as a child," she said.

During her interviews, she learned how routine-oriented and diverse each player was when it came to food, and how it relates to playing baseball.

For instance:

• If David Wright has a good game, he will eat the same meal the next day.

• Roy Halladay, who doesn't do much cooking, makes it a tradition to grill the Thanksgiving turkey outside every year.

• Josh Hamilton, the 2010 American League MVP, goes home after games in Texas and eats with his family.

• Yankees captain Derek Jeter eats pancakes and an omelet before every game.

• Alex Rodriguez likes to start his day off with a bowl of fruit.

• Johnson, the Marlins' ace, eats a pasta dish every night before he pitches.

"Major League Baseball has been so enthusiastic and supportive of this idea when I approached them two years ago," Loria said. "From the get-go, they were very supportive, as well as the Players Association."

Johnson said he started his pasta tradition during his rookie season in 2006. A two-time All-Star who paced the National League with a 2.30 ERA in 2010, it's hard to argue with the success of his routine.

"It's worked out so far," Johnson said.

In the book, the 6-foot-7 right-hander is pictured holding his son, Cash.

"The book turned out really, really cool," Johnson said. "Every picture, my wife said, 'Wow, that turned out great!'"

Loria noted that many of the players called their daily patterns "routines" and not "superstitions."

"One of the really interesting things about writing this book is that all 20 players are all different in their eating habits," she said. "They also have some similar habits. Alex Rodriguez is a very healthy eater. What he eats is mostly organic. He doesn't like much sugar. He says his one weakness is salt, and he does crave a T-bone steak every now and then. But for the most part, he's an extremely healthy eater."

Also featured are Lance Berkman, Miguel Cabrera, Andre Ethier, Adrian Gonzalez, Ryan Howard, Paul Konerko, Johan Santana, Evan Longoria, Joe Mauer, Dustin Pedroia, Grady Sizemore and Chase Utley.

"When I talked with Evan Longoria about food, he was so enthusiastic," Loria said. "He said, 'I love to cook. I love to entertain.' He said his mom taught him a lot of Ukrainian dishes, such as stuffed cabbage, which is delicious. It's his mom's recipe."

During her visits to the All-Stars' homes, Loria also discovered that a number of players were skilled in the kitchen.

"Adrian Gonzalez, Johan Santana and Hanley Ramirez, they each had amazing culinary knife skills," she said. "They were able to pick up and slice things, and it was so natural. It was so incredible to see these amazing athletes cooking in their kitchens."

Diamond Dishes also reveals some insights into the players and their upbringing.

Pujols, for instance, shares the story that growing up, he shared a pair of spikes and glove with a friend. He was around 10 or 11 when he owned his first bat and glove.

Today, Pujols is arguably the best player in the game. And the Cardinals slugger's wife, Deidre, has a signature dish she calls, "Home Run Chicken."

"The idea of the book that I wanted to show is that it applies to men and women," Loria said. "More men are cooking, and more women are watching baseball. Within these pages, there are very easy-to-follow recipes."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.