Yamming It Up

There was a story in the sports pages recently about how Jason Giambi, a first baseman/designated hitter for the Oakland A’s, is now eating yams before games. He’s so into his new pre-game energy food that the clubhouse assistant says Giambi insists on a certain variety, Beauregard, which is known for having a darker color and higher natural sugar than most varieties.


He’s even got several teammates eating them, the San Jose Mercury News reported, including slugger Matt Holliday and former Red Sox great Nomar Garciaparra. (While Giambi eats his plain, the clubhouse man says, Nomar puts butter on his and mashes them up, a man after my own heart.) Anyway, maybe it’s no coincidence that many of the team’s power hitters are filling up on yams. Giambi says he got the idea from one of the game’s finest hitters, Alex Rodriguez, whom he saw eating them in the clubhouse last year when they were both with the Yankees.

“A-Rod’s really dedicated about how he eats,” Giambi told the newspaper. “I felt like one aspect of my playing that I could really clean up on was eating well. (Rodriguez) would always eat sweetpotatoes before the game because it not only fuels you, but makes you feel kind of light.”

Who Needs Steroids?

It’s probably just a coincidence that both Giambi and A-Rod have been linked with steroids in recent years. But maybe not. As we reported last summer, Olympic sprint champion Usain Bolt’s father said an exotic yam called the Trelawny yam may be his son’s secret to superhuman speed. According to researchers at USPlabs in Denton, TX, yams contain steroidal glycosides. In fact, scientists such as Russell Marker actually used the yam to first synthesize testosterone back in the early 1930s. All anabolic steroids are developed from testosterone.

I was curious about Giambi’s favored variety, the Beauregard, so I Googled it. The top website listed was that of a grower, Garcia Farms of Livingston, CA. I gave them a call and spoke with Frank Mesa, the sales manager, who said that a friend had sent him the story about Giambi. Mesa said he doesn’t think Garcia Farms, which along with its contract growers farms about 550 acres of yams, can use Giambi’s statement as an endorsement because of legal issues.

However, there’s still a marketing lesson here for all growers: If you don’t yet have a website, think about developing one. The cost isn’t that great, and what if I were a buyer looking for Beauregard yams? Being at the top of a Google search would garner attention and might boost sales. Yam demand is sure to rise, at least in Northern California. I don’t know about you, but if that’s what it’s going to take for me to start regularly driving a golf ball 300 yards, please pass the yams.