Summer’s pleasures—watching a baseball game, eating an ice-cream cone, playing in the surf—can bring back happy childhood memories. But when’s the last time you chewed bubblegum—and blew big, pink bubbles?
The relief pitchers of the Washington Nationals chew bubblegum every game. A lot of it. The bullpen is stocked with gum. After all, a baseball game can feel very long when you’re sitting for six or seven innings, waiting for a possible call to come in and pitch. “It’s just to kill time,” says right-handed flamethrower Tyler Clippard. “If I’m not chewing seeds or chewing gum, I feel lost.” Earlier this season, says reliever Todd Coffey, “I put 33 pieces of gum in my mouth. That’s the record.”
Baseball has a tradition of players chewing things. Years ago, it was typically tobacco—baseball cards were first issued by tobacco companies. Then the cards came with gum.
What’s the secret to a big bubble? “Sugar-free is the best for bubbles,” says Drew Storen, one of baseball’s top young closers. “You get the best bubble with two pieces of sugarless gum and one piece of sugared gum.”
Six Nats pitchers—Clippard, Coffey, Storen, Doug Slaten, Cole Kimball, and Sean Burnett—agreed to do a blind tasting of five bubblegums and tell us which tasted best and blew the biggest bubbles. The winners? Bubble Yum and Dubble Bubble. The least favorite? Ironically, it was Big League Chew, which is shredded to look like chewing tobacco and sold in a pouch. “The package is great, but the gum’s like chalk,” said Coffey.
See a behind-the-scenes video and extra pictures of our photoshoot with The Nationals' relief pitchers:
This article appears in the July 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.