Vendor hawks dogs, spreads smiles at ballpark

  • Article by: CURT BROWN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 5, 2012 - 9:02 PM

After a heart attack nearly killed him, he gave up the corporate job to hawk uniquely styled hot dogs.

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Mike Vedder traded in his corporate job to sell hot dogs at Target Field after a 2010 heart attack.

Photo: Refugio Padilla, Special for the Star Tribune

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From his back-to-the-field perch in Row 1 of Target Field's second deck, Mike Vedder rests his bulky silver hot dog vending contraption on a step. He doffs his red cap and greets a kindergartener named Mia with a silly grin.

"Don't I remember you from last season?"

Vedder then starts squirting his signature flourish on a hot dog, spelling out T-W-I-N-S with bright-yellow mustard on a background of red ketchup.

"If they're winning, I add an exclamation point," he jokes later. "But that hasn't happened much. It's gonna be a long season."

Yes, the Twins are struggling as they return this week for a nine-game homestand. But Vedder serves up more than distinctly stylized hot dogs. He squirts out a little perspective with the mustard.

The day before Thanksgiving 2010, Vedder suffered a heart attack -- 98 percent of his left artery was blocked. He'd been a corporate honcho for rental car chains for two decades. After surgeons implanted a stent, he gave up the corporate gig "to hang out in a place just this side of heaven."

He's lost nearly 100 pounds schlepping his Schweigerts up and down the stands, saying he feels blessed. Priorities change and he figures vending is keeping him in shape in a place he loves -- American League standings be darned.

His heart-healthy diet doesn't allow him to enjoy the product he hawks, with a deafening, fog-horn drawn-out call: "I GOT SCHWEI-GERTS."

To save his voice for those 200 verbal cannon-blast sales pitches over an 82-game marathon season, he follows some sage advice from a woman who works in a nook in the back of the ballpark, helping hot dog vendors with their carts: He eats a couple of fresh whole lemons after every game and drinks 40 ounces of water.

Originally from the Detroit area, Vedder said he switched allegiances from the Tigers to Twins "after I started paying Minnesota taxes in 1988."

When he's not at the ballpark, Vedder is caring for his mother, Bunny, who has suffered from Alzheimer's disease for three years. She's among the many females surrounding Vedder, including his wife, Gail; daughters Micaela (25), Mallory (22) and Marley (16), and his black standard poodle, Sable.

He says vending equals about one-third of the income he needs, so he'll be looking for a full-time job to juggle with the hot dog peddling once he gets his mother settled in an assisted-living facility.

In the meantime, he'll be yelling: "SCHWEI-GERTS" and making little girls such as Mia smile with his mustard artistry.

"Gosh," he says. "It's tough to be in a bad mood at the ballpark."

To learn more about this vendor who reinvented himself, search for his Facebook page at Target Field Hot Dog Man.

CURT BROWN

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