No one would say Chuck Vavrosky is the picture of perfect fitness, he jokes. But running up and down stairs at Saints baseball games keeps the former state heavyweight wrestling champion healthy -- plus, he usually drops 20 pounds by the end of the season. Vavrosky grew up wrestling and watching his dad, Ray "Your Favorite Vendor" Vavrosky, work Twins, Vikings, Saints and Gophers games until the age of 75. "My dad used to say that the Metrodome was his multimillion-dollar Stairmaster," Vavrosky said.
WHIFF OF THE FUTURE "I started wrestling in third grade. My brother and I would scrap at it at home, so my mom found a brochure on wrestling and told us it would be a good thing to do to get rid of our energy. And I've been in that stinky, smelly room ever since.
"I started vending when I was 14 at the old Met Stadium. It was probably a little push in the back from my dad to get out and do something, but I enjoyed it. I loved working at the old Met. People came out to have fun. It was inexpensive, and, to me, the most amazing part was to drive into the lot for football games when it was colder and windier than heck out there and people would be tailgating away."
ATHLETE TO MENTOR "I wrestled for 1 1/2 years with the Gophers, and then I broke my leg, blew my knee out. I was at a point where I was competing at a very high level; I'd won a junior world championship, and I was a final qualifier for the 1980 Olympic team. I was only 18; I never got to really reach my potential.
"After I got hurt, I started coaching at Bloomington Kennedy, where I went, in 1980 as an assistant. I had my leg in a cast, and I was on crutches in the wrestling room after my injury. When I was in eighth or ninth grade, I had started coaching little kids and just loved it. I took over as head coach in 1986."
DOME DRONE "When the Twins moved to the Metrodome, I worked there for a couple of years, and then I quit because it was too much like a job. But when the Saints opened an outdoor stadium and my dad came to me to ask if I could fill in sometimes, I loved it. I've been there ever since."
VENDING REGIMEN "It's something that the first few weeks of doing it you get a little sore, but as you go on, your body adjusts to it. I'm a big human being, but by midseason I'm running up and down the steps just like anyone else would be. In wrestling, you have to have drive to be a good wrestler; in vending, you have to have drive to make sure the fans are happy and have what they want."
HEAVY LIFTING "I sell everything: beer, Mike's Hard Lemonade, pop, water, popcorn, peanuts, Cracker Jack. I don't even know if I want to know how much it weighs. When you first take it and go out, it's heavy. But if people are buying, you go three or four steps at a time and set it down. I use handles -- no neck strap. I tried the strap once, but every time you set it down you need to unstrap it. It seemed like more work. You feel it in your legs and arms; your forearm to your biceps."
PRESEASON TRAINING "Before baseball season, I hunt for morel mushrooms, so I'm walking up and down the hills in southwest Minnesota. The last year or so, I haven't been wrestling as much, but I still roll around once in a while."
ALWAYS PUSHING "I do not take breaks. When you set the tray down to serve somebody, that's my time to talk; that's the fun part of it. Over the years, I've built up regulars who will only buy certain things from me. I've had people run all the way across the stadium to get a beverage from me.
"I have that competitive edge to me from wrestling, but when I go out there, I don't compete with other vendors; I compete against myself to make sure I'm going as hard as I can. At 75, my dad was still running the steps. I hope I'm in as good as shape as he was at that age, still flying around there."
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