Somebody once told me, “You have to care about something to be good at it. Once you’re good, if you still care, you’ll only be great if you start trusting your gut about what to do next.” Here’s a story about ballpark condiments that encompasses this idea as good as any.
Rick Abramson was a food vendor at the Brewers stadium in the 1970s. He did the standard ballpark fare – burgers, dogs, brats, etc. One day they were running low on condiments and he had to improvise. This is what trusting your (literal and metaphorical) gut looks like:
We were sort of running out of ketchup and mustard, and we needed a condiment. I took barbecue sauce, a little ketchup and mustard and smoked syrup and other ingredients and came up with secret stadium sauce. We said, “We don’t have [ketchup and mustard], but we have secret stadium sauce.”
It was a hit at the ballpark (pun intended), and Abramson kept making it.
In the 80s, baseball broadcaster Bob Costas started talking about how much he loved calling Brewers games because he and Tony Kubek would trade duties while the other chowed down on brats and secret stadium sauce. The local legend became nationally known.
The company Abramson worked for, Delaware North, started bottling and selling his sauce all over Wisconsin. It all stemmed from Abramson’s confidence in a difficult moment. He cared enough to be good, and he dared enough to be great.
But Abramson wasn’t done. He didn’t stay a ballpark food vendor for long. In the years that followed, he eventually rose all the way to CEO of Delaware North, grew the company further, and did some remarkable work with NASA (yes, that NASA).
He was good at his job. He trusted his gut. And when he took a little risk, great things happened.