Chances are you‘ll hear David Sakulsky before you see him.
His gravelly voice booms out over the crowd at PNC Park as he weaves his way through the aisles in lower right field. He’s pretty agile for a guy who‘s got a 40-pound “hot box” stuffed with warm buns and hot water strapped to his belly.
“Hot dogs! Who‘s ready for a hot dog?” the 50-year-old trumpets. “You know you want a hot dog!”
Hot dog vendor dances, jokes way into sales, friendships
PNC Park hot dog vendor David Sakulsky has earned sales and friendships through his ballpark routine, which includes dancing and a lot of joke-filled chatter. (Video by Andrew Rush; 7/6/2014)
A fan to his right waves, and the veteran vendor -- he’s been doing this for about eight years now -- reaches into the box, being careful to stay bent over as he slaps a Sugardale frank into a wax paper-wrapped Cellone‘s bun. The No. 1 rule of ballpark hawking, he notes, is never to block anyone’s view.
It’s what comes next that delights the crowd. When music blares over the PA system during a break in innings, Mr. Sakulsky starts to dance. It‘s more hip-hop than rock ’n‘ roll, with lots of shoulder rolling and pointing fingers. But the man ain’t afraid to bob his head like a chicken or swing those hips like Elvis, either.
Regulars know him as the Dancing Hot Dog Guy. It‘s a nickname that makes the father of two grin.
“I like to move, I‘m always moving,“ he chuckles. “I love my job.”
Mr. Sakulsky also sings into his tongs and jokes with his customers. (“Hey! I don’t go into McDonald‘s and ask for a Whopper,” he tells a wise guy who asks for a burger.) Only occasionally does he stop to watch the action on the field, and then only for a nano-second. The job is commission-based, so it’s important to hustle.
On a good night, Mr. Sakulsky can sell four loads of hot dogs -- more than 150 at $3.50 a pop.
PNC Park vendors get to pick what they sell each day based on seniority, and what kind of game it is. Day games mean lots of kids hungry for cotton candy and lemon chills; weekends bring out the beer lovers. When it’s hot out, you want to sell water.
Even if you‘re not a regular at PNC Park you might know the Green Tree resident: He also peddles beer at Consol Energy, Heinz Field and First Niagara Pavilion in Burgettstown.
“I don’t go anywhere where people don‘t recognize me,” he says.
So what makes a good hot dog vendor?
It helps to be fit, as the average vendor can walk 4 to 5 miles per game, up and down stairs.
“You have to be good spirited, high energy and be good with sales,” Mr. Sakulsky says. But the best guys also are entertaining, which is where the dancing comes in.
“I have no inhibitions when I’m working here,” he says.
Which is kind of funny, he adds, because at home, “I‘m kind of shy.”
Gretchen McKay: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1419 or on Twitter @gtmckay.