By Doug Miller / MLB.comWhen Andre Ethier was in the midst of a torrid September for the Dodgers, manager Joe Torre realized that he had made a good decision to keep the young outfielder in the heart of the batting order.
"He's just locked in," Torre said at the time. "He's getting himself in pretty good positions. Right now, he looks about as relaxed as I've seen him."
Maybe Torre never saw him in a Romanian or Ethiopian restaurant.
Yes, deep in the heart of Los Angeles lie hundreds of great hidden eateries, and Ethier is on a personal quest to sample all of them.
The Dodgers outfielder isn't only a burgeoning star in the National League. He's also a serious foodie who watches celebrity chef Anthony Boudain religiously and writes his own food blog, Dining With 'Dre, right here at MLBlogs.com.
He grew up in the Phoenix area and went to Arizona State University, where he was inspired by a local food blog, Feasting in Phoenix, to try out various ethnic cuisines around the Valley of the Sun.When Ethier was promoted to the Major Leagues, he found that concentrating on something besides baseball every once in a while helped him deal with the stress and rigors of the 162-game schedule. He dedicated himself to seeking out new and exciting flavors in the food mecca that is L.A.
The first place he looked? The Dodgers clubhouse, of course.
Shortstop Rafael Furcal, who hails from the Dominican Republic, introduced Ethier to empanadas and plantains, while Japanese reliever Takashi Saito showed him the sushi ropes and more exotic fares.
"Gyu-tongue," Ethier said, when asked to name the thinly sliced beef tongue with salt recommended by Saito. "I don't think my wife was a fan when she found out what it was. I'm a fan."
Ethier has taken the experiences of this on-the-job food sampling to Dining with 'Dre.
So far, he's turned on computer-savvy Angelinos to Park's Korean BBQ in Koreatown, Mario Batali's Pizzeria Mozza and a Japanese joint called Shabu Hachi.
He's also turned some good phrases with his writing.
For example, after sampling the pizzas at Mozza, he spun this paragraph: "I had carefully planned out my method for getting a seat at this place (hint: I showed up between lunch and dinner...I am sneaky, I know, but you guys can have that tidbit. Just don't everyone use it all at once or we we'll create the same problem as lunch and dinner)."
Ethier has become more popular among baseball fans after a regular season in which he hit .305 with 20 home runs, and his blog is similarly starting to receive national attention as well.
The Wall Street Journal recently wrote a feature about it, mentioning that several Dodgers fans have started dining at the restaurants Ethier has recommended.
But when Ethier is in the outfield, his food choices are not nearly as exciting as the ones he orders when he's painting the town for blog fodder.
"I'm either munching on sunflower seeds or Bazooka bubble gum," he says. "Sometimes I'll sneak a protein bar out there with me."
Doug Miller is a senior writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.