5/5/2013 7:53 P.M. ET
McCovey Cove kayakers get a treat
ESPN equips craft to distribute free hot dogs to fans on the water
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- Through the years, we've watched with varying degrees of interest as boaters and kayakers floated around McCovey Cove during Giants games, waiting for the often elusive home run ball to come their way.
The price they pay is steep, depending on how much importance you place on actually being able to watch the game. Although the scenery surrounding the San Francisco Bay is indeed gorgeous, the view of the game is somewhat … well, obstructed, considering that those floating in the water have no way to actually know what's happening on the field unless they are following along through (shameless plug alert), say, the MLB.com At Bat app.
What's more, the notoriously delicious eats at AT&T Park are available only to the fans inside the stadium, not out. So if a kayaker were to become hungry … Well, he's out of luck.
That is, until Sunday. Enter London Van Der Kamp, a professional kayaker who briefly stepped away from his day job at an outdoor sporting goods company and into a specially made kayak that was used during Sunday's game between the Giants and Dodgers.
Van Der Kamp, recruited by ESPN and its advertising agency, Wieden+Kennedy, was targeted to be a floating hot dog vendor for the night. His job? To serve other Cove kayakers hot dogs, free of charge, from a custom-built contraption that contains a warming compartment and bottles of mustard and ketchup.
The exercise was designed to be simple (as long as no one asked for relish) yet meaningful, given ESPN's desire to accomplish two goals: give a shout-out to the loyal fans in the Cove, and create a buzz during its popular and highly rated "Sunday Night Baseball."
In other words, don't be surprised to see #hotdogkayak as a trending topic during the telecast.
The affable and laid-back Van Der Kamp, a loyal Giants fan, was eager to participate.
"I was thoroughly enthralled by giving back to the extreme enthusiasts here at McCovey Cove," Van Der Kamp said. "I jumped on it immediately. I'm just really excited that we could make it happen. It's nice to be out giving out some hot dogs to the hard-core Giant lovers out there. They deserve it."
Logistically, there were details to work out. For instance, was Van Der Kamp responsible for putting the ketchup and mustard on the hot dogs, or could fans do it themselves?
"I think I'll leave that up to them," he said. "I'll be in the boat. I'll have a hot dog, it'll be all wrapped. Sure, I can put it on for them. Then I'll hand it off and let them enjoy."
Also, what if another kayak floats too close? Any chance of a collision?
Turns out, ESPN mapped out a way to avoid any unforeseen kayak chaos. Van Der Kamp's kayak was equipped with paddle leashes that can tie two kayaks together. That way, if there was a lull while Van Der Kamp was, say, dressing some one's hot dog with mustard, there was no danger of anyone floating away.
What if Van Der Kamp ran out of hot dogs, you ask? No worries. ESPN arranged for a second boat -- a "follow boat" if you will -- that will have an extra stash of dogs if need be.
Hints of the ESPN-generated exploit were floated through various social media mechanisms beginning early Sunday morning, but it was largely assumed that Van Der Kamp's presence was going to be a surprise to fellow boaters.
"It's very unexpected," he said. "They don't know it's coming. All of a sudden, they're just going to see me coming out of the horizon. All of a sudden, they're going to get food, and they're going to be super-happy. And I'll be happy to give back to those hard-cores."