The idea of “comfort food” means different things to different people. If you grew up eating Kraft mac and cheese, the cheesy pasta probably conjures up very specific warm feelings for you. If you grew up eating your mom’s rice and beans, or congee, or fried chicken—same thing.

It’s no surprise, then, that Dominican MLB players like Hanley Ramirez and Albert Pujols wished for a taste of home when they came to the States to play. If you’ve ever spent time away from your home city or country, there are probably plenty of foods you miss as well.

The Washington Post reports that there’s an MLB Dominican food network in play to make sure every Dominican ball player gets that taste of home, no matter where he goes. It works like this: Dominican players on the team that’s hosting always take care of any visiting Dominican team members with containers full of delicious things like Dominican-style rice and beans and chicken. It’s that simple.

Both baseball and food are such an ingrained part of Dominican culture, the math makes perfect sense. What’s phenomenal is that it doesn’t matter what team you play for—if you’re a Dominican professional baseball player in America and you’re hungry, you won’t be for long. According to WaPo, around 11% of current MLB players hail from the DR, so it’s a big network that’s only going to get bigger.

In the DR, food and baseball are an incredibly important combo—one that’s spreading to the U.S. In 2011, an official MLB cookbook called Diamond Dishes came out. It featured recipes from 20 current MLB players, including Hanley Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, and Albert Pujols. One of the recipes included was arroz y habichuelas—Dominican-style rice and beans. 

In big cities with good-sized Dominican communities, finding a good Dominican restaurant might not seem so tough. But as any immigrant or second-generation child of immigrants who grew up eating a certain way at homecan attest, it’s hard to find good ethnic food unless a) you’re in an area where that community is well-represented, or b) you make it yourself.

The Baltimore Orioles’ Nelson Cruz puts it very succinctly,

“I love my Dominican food. And the day I don’t eat my rice and Dominican food, I don’t feel good. I know other Dominicans feel that way, too. Knowing how they suffer away from home, I try to make their day and visit more comfortable by bringing them food, too.”

In conclusion, there may be no crying in baseball, but there’s definitely frying (in the form of chicharrón de pollo). And we think that’s beautiful.

crying1

[via the Washington Post, Diamond Dishes]