Pictures of new stadium seating and a fresh green baseball diamond flood every social media platform, and we see sunny orange, yellow and sky blue when we close our eyes. In Miami, the current buzz surrounds the new ultramodern Marlins Park.
For Julie Loria, the new Miami Marlins experience hits close to home. “Miami is such a fantastic city,” she said. The art enthusiast, philanthropist and wife of Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria sees the vibrancy of her city, and is spreading the energy across the nation through the two most fundamental traditions in America: baseball and cooking.
“If you think about the two, food and baseball translate across all cultures and all generations,” Loria said. “They both evoke that same passion, and more than that, they conjure up all these feel good memories.” For Loria, the memories take her back to cooking with her Italian-American family and watching baseball with her father.
In that spirit, Loria set off to write Diamond Dishes: From the Kitchens of Baseball’s Biggest Stars. Welcomed into the homes of 20 Major League Baseball players, Loria left with over 60 recipes, countless anecdotes and a new perspective on some of America’s star athletes. It took three years to complete; “I had oneon- one interviews with each of them, and from there I went to each of their homes with a photographer and photographed them in their kitchens,” she said.
You won’t see any baseball uniforms or team paraphernalia through Loria’s zoomed-in lens, though; instead you’ll find the familiar faces of Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Howard and Albert Pujols in plain clothes, talking about their favorite dishes and memories of cooking with family. “It’s a real sneak peek into what their lives off the field are,” Loria said. “Some of those players really do cook. Evan Longoria, for instance, is such a natural in the kitchen; he immediately just picked up a knife and started chopping and preparing things. It was just so natural and authentic.”
The players dish out their favorite recipes, like Dustin Pedroia’s pasta primavera and Lance Berkman’s fried catfish with special sauce. Some even reveal their baseball-driven eating habits; Derek Jeter divulges his routine breakfast and Josh Johnson stays true to his pregame lunch traditions. “These are stories you can’t find on the Internet; a lot of fans don’t know these things and they’re all captured in the book. I couldn’t wait to share it with everybody,” Loria said.
Audiences across America shared Loria’s anticipation, and the book debuted to rave reviews. Just over a year later, the official Major League Baseball publication continues to attract a diverse readership. Women, men, sports fans and pseudo-chefs alike have taken to the book for its authenticity as Loria highlights the modern household environment, one where more men are in the kitchen and more women are watching baseball. “This book is more than just a book about baseball; it’s more than just a book about cooking,” she said. “It appeals to both men, women and children, and I think that’s what has given it such longevity.”
The novel’s appeal to such an eclectic audience parallels the magnetizing allure of Marlins Park, where Loria brought the practices of the book to life. “One of the things that I started is a juice bar called Diamond Juices, an extension of Diamond Dishes and my love of all things food,” she said. Loria’s juice bar, the first of its kind at any sports arena, is a vegan, gluten-free and totally fresh approach to game-time snacking.
In an establishment so dense with eating options, Diamond Juices stands out. “This is my contribution to including a healthy option,” she said. The baseball theme is interwoven: juices like the “Vista Verde,” a vegetable juice titled after the celebratory “V” signal Marlins players and fans make over their eyes, is a fan favorite.
Young Marlins fans opt for the Reyes of Sunshine smoothie, an ode to star player Jose Reyes, made with fresh berries and agave. “Kids are at ballparks, so why not introduce a healthy drink?” proposed Loria. In fact, Diamond Dishes has proven to be an effective educational source for kids that want to eat like their favorite athletes.
The concept behind Diamond Dishes has come full circle, first entertaining and educating readers and then becoming an easily accessible choice for Miami Marlins fans. For Loria, the marriage of baseball and cooking has turned into a charitable cause, and she’s knocking it out of the park.
“Having the book as a vehicle to be able to give back has been the most rewarding,” Loria said. “We did an event with my book at Tiffany & Co. for Common Thread, [an organization] that teaches low income children how to make meals and eat healthy,” she explained. All proceeds from last year’s event benefited the foundation, which is in-step with the healthy lifestyle Loria lives and promotes.
Over the past year, the author has also traveled to Arizona, hosting a book signing alongside Major League Baseball stars Josh Hamilton, Lance Berkman and Miguel Cabrera to raise funds for Stand Up for Cancer. This February, she was invited by the South Beach Wine & Food Festival to host an exclusive special event to benefit the Florida International University Chaplin School of Hospitality.
Having injected the city with a renewed sense of community, the Lorias are at the forefront of Miami’s cultural renaissance. Cheers to Loria with a celebratory juice at your next Marlins game.