Gluten-free broadcaster covers NFL and MLB

Kevin Burkhardt doesn’t just watch football every Sunday—he has a job to do every time there is a fumble, tackle or touchdown.

FOX sportscaster Kevin Burkhardt Photo by FOX Sports
FOX sportscaster Kevin Burkhardt
Photo by FOX Sports

As a broadcaster for FOX Sports, he travels the country providing play-by-play for National Football League games and this week began covering Major League Baseball games for the network as well. Burkhardt, 41, always dreamed of being in sports broadcasting, which is why he kept his eye on the ball after he was diagnosed with celiac disease in his late 20s.

Burkhardt had a long road to diagnosis. After experiencing stomach problems for years, he was incorrectly diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. His symptoms continued, and he lost 30 pounds in one month. Finally in the early 2000s, Burkhardt found a doctor who diagnosed him with celiac disease, and his world completely changed. In an interesting twist, his wife was also diagnosed with celiac disease. Their eight-year-old son does not have the condition but is a gluten-free appreciator and could be called his parents’ biggest fan.

Before working for FOX, Burkhardt covered the Mets for eight years at SportsNet New York (SNY). During his time with SNY, he traveled a tremendous amount even though he knew there were very few gluten-free options on the road. In spite of this, he never let the gluten-free diet take him out of the game, even when his only safe option for dinner at some games was vanilla ice cream.

gluten-free sportscaster
Bukhardt on the job
Photo by FOX Sports

Fast forward and dining gluten-free at stadiums has vastly changed. These days, Burkhardt tries all sorts of gluten-free fare during the workday and has a very supportive team around him. New York Mets fans can even thank Burkhardt for pitching the idea of a gluten-free stand to the organization, which has since set up a successful gluten-free spot at Citi Field.

And Burkhardt was honored by the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University in 2014 for his outstanding support of research and awareness of celiac disease.

Two weeks before baseball opening day, Burkhardt shared what a typical day is like at home in Hermosa, California, and on the road.

What time do you wake up?
When I’m at home, I wake up at about 7 a.m. My morning routine really centers around getting my son to school. I wake him up and help him get ready. We play a little bit or finish any work he might have, and then I drop him off at school. I usually don’t eat before that, but I will have a cup of coffee and something to eat when I get back.

What’s for breakfast?
I’m a big, big pancake fan, and I also like waffles. I probably make them once a week and treat myself. Sometimes I’ll pop an Udi’s bagel into the toaster. I also like gluten-free granola with milk, which is somewhat healthier than my other breakfast options.

On a game day, if we stay at a really nice hotel like a Four Seasons and they offer gluten-free pancakes, I always get them.

What’s an average day like for you?
Come baseball season, which starts in two weeks, my life will be a little different. The first game will be on at 4 p.m. I’ll probably wake up a little earlier than 7 a.m. and start doing a lot of prep and reading for my show.

During football season, I am home for three and a half days, from Monday until about mid-day Thursday. But I have a ton of work to do. I kind of do it on my own throughout the day, which is nice. I come back from dropping my son at school and start reading. I take a break, go to the gym, have some semblance of lunch, do a little bit more work, and then I pick my son up from school. We spend some time together doing homework or going to the park or beach.

I’m a night owl so a lot of times I get back into work mode after my son goes to sleep. I crack open a gluten-free beer, the house will be quiet, and then I’ll really sit down and grind out three hours of work.

I travel on either Thursday or Friday. I get into a city, Seattle for example, and I go right to the Seahawk’s practice facility, where I watch practice. The team serves lunch, which is usually fantastic because the chefs take care of me. Then after I meet with all the coaches and players and take notes, I probably get out of there at 4 p.m.

My crew and I have some downtime, and then we’ll have a big group dinner. It’s a really fun night. My whole crew is always so concerned about me and is always making sure the place has gluten-free options.

On Sunday, we head over to the game. I have my statistics guy, Jeff Nelson, and he takes the best care of me. He lets all the local people helping us broadcast know that I am gluten free. He’ll make sure that I have gluten-free options  available, like KIND bars. And then we do the game and afterwards it’s off to the airport to go back home. It’s a ton of work, but the payoff is amazing.

What’s for lunch?
Lunch is the hardest thing for me because I’m a huge sandwich guy, but I don’t want that all the time. I like salads, but I don’t want to eat them every day. I love peanut butter and there is a place in Hermosa that makes the best organic peanut butter. It’s incredible. For lunch a lot of times, I just throw that on Blue Diamond’s Cheddar Cheese Nut Thins and have some lemonade.

When I used to travel with the Mets, I would throw a jar of peanut butter jar in my bag and literally eat out of the jar the whole six hour trip. In the later years, they put a gluten-free meal on the plane for me.

What’s for dinner?
We make a lot of chicken dishes at home. My son loves tacos so we do that once a week. I love sushi so we take that out. Once a week we do a gluten-free pizza. There are so many places that make great gluten-free pizza; we have come so far. We go out a lot more now that we are here. You can ride your bike to dinner in Hermosa and have a nice dinner outside. My son does have gluten-full meals if he doesn’t like what we are eating at home.

Your work takes you around the country. Have you had the chance to meet other members of the gluten-free community?
It’s always fascinating to get a chance to meet people and see what they do, what they like. I have gotten so many recommendations from people.

What does raising celiac disease awareness and serving as an ambassador for the gluten-free community mean to you?
It’s nice that people relate to me. Whether it’s people that I meet or a lot of people who follow me on Twitter, there are lots of people who say, “Thank you for that.” I hope that I can be an ambassador for people. I am the same as everybody else, I just happen to be on television.

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

Susan Cohen is a New York freelance writer. She contributes regularly to Gluten-Free Living.

 

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  • Great interview about a great guy!

  • Love how Burkhardt pitched the idea of a gluten-free food stand at the baseball stadium.

  • Regina E Vought

    The stadiums in NY have already had Gluten-free food for a few years now.