PHOENIX – This is not about politics or the economy, at least not directly.
This is about Lemonade. “Lemonade, lemonade, like grandma made!”
For 26 years, Derrick Moore has been selling drinks at sports venues across the West, but quenching thirst is only part of his mission.
Moore is arguably the nation’s top ballpark vendor of smiles.
Fans attending games in Arizona, Southern California and Nevada – over 250 events each year – often can’t remember the final score, but they never forget Moore’s deep, rousing call: “Lemonade, Lemonade, like grandma made!”
As the most popular vendor in baseball’s Cactus League, Moore has his pick of venues, so this month he’s following the World Champion Giants.
Wherever they play, that’s where Moore peddles his good cheer. “Yummy, yummy. You know you want it!” Moore is so popular at Diamondbacks (baseball), Suns (basketball) and Cardinals (football) games that fans seek his autograph, pose with him in photos, and even plead with the smiling “Lemonade Guy” to record messages on their cell phones – “like grandma made!”
In the fall he travels to San Diego for Chargers football and to Nevada for college games and monster truck races.
For 17 years, Moore was a beer vendor (“Get a cold brew, you know what to do!”).
He made a good living to support his wife and four kids at their home north of Phoenix, but he grew frustrated by the often rowdy behavior of the beer-drinking crowd.
It also didn’t square with his faith.
Moore is a religious man who ministers to prison inmates and troubled youngsters in his spare time.
In 2002 Moore gave up beer and switched to lemonade.
He says his grandma Beulah made some of the best lemonade in Phoenix and most folks who stopped by for a cool drink left with a smile.
So Moore fashioned his sales approach around memories of his late grandma.
On a good day he sells 300 lemonades, roughly twice the number the average soft drink vendor can score.
He works for three different lemonade companies, each with its own t-shirt, so he has to be sure to wear the correct uniform when he switches venues.
At some stadiums the price is $5, at others it’s $5.75, and rookie vendors prefer the higher price because customers usually let them keep the 25-cents change.
But Moore takes a hit at $5.75, since his frequent tip for a $5 drink is a full dollar.
At a spring training game in Peoria this month, Moore strolled through the stands entertaining fans while a rogue beer vendor followed behind calling, “Miller Lite, like grandpa used to drink.”
A few aisles away, a competing lemonade vendor shouted, “Lemonade, just like Derrick’s grandma made!”
Moore didn’t object; he was flattered.
A Phoenix radio station and a local car dealer hired him to do commercials.
He travels two hours to sell at concerts and festivals in Tucson (“Limonada, limonada, like nana used to make!”).
During spring training he will sometimes do both a day game and a night game, leaving his voice hoarse and his back is sore, yet his wide grin is unaffected.
When Moore preaches in jails the theme is about curbing anger and bitterness; in ballparks there’s no need for a sermon, but the message is the same.
“It doesn’t matter what you do for a living,” he says, “as long as you love it. I go to work happy, and I leave work feeling even happier. I enjoy making people smile.”
With a deep chuckle, he adds the trademark, “Yeah, baby!”
Life handed Derrick Moore a lemon, and grandma Beulah would be pleased to know he’s making lemonade mixed with good cheer.
(Peter Funt is a writer and public speaker; he may be reached at www.CandidCamera.com, he’s also the long-time host of “Candid Camera.”)