I’ve been a passionate baseball fan since my first childhood visit to watch a game at the old Tiger Stadium at the intersection of Michigan and Trumbull in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood.  In my opinion you can’t beat being outside on a nice day enjoying America’s national pastime.  I’ve gone to more baseball games than I can count and was looking forward to sharing my love of visiting the ballpark with my kids.  Then life got in the way!

During all my trips to stadiums to take in ballgames, I’d never really noticed just how littered the places can be with peanut shells.  Really focus on it the next time visiting a ballpark and you’ll notice an overwhelming amount of peanut residue and shells all over the place.  So unfortunately that means taking my daughter to go see a ballgame with me isn’t something we can easily do.  She has a very severe life-threatening food allergy to peanuts and going to a stadium that doesn’t provide special accommodations to help avoid contact with allergens is just asking for trouble.

As the number of people with peanut allergies, especially among children, has grown by epidemic numbers in recent years, some baseball teams have begun working to make going to a game accessible for fans with this medical condition. They provide an area designated for just allergy suffers along with friends and family to enjoy the game from that has been thoroughly cleaned and peanuts are banned from that section.  Those simple steps really do make it practical and safe for even someone like my daughter with a really severe allergy to go to a ballgame.  The level of involvement with Major League Baseball teams providing areas like this ranges from not doing it at all to hosting a couple of games per year with these special allergy-friendly sections to the Oakland A’s designating a peanut-controlled zone for all their home games at the Coliseum.  Also many minor league teams have peanut free stadium nights, occasionally host special seating areas or offer other accommodations as well if you can’t make it to one of the Big League events.

Our family had just been avoiding going to the ballpark, but I watch a lot my hometown baseball team’s games on television and my daughter began begging to go see the Detroit Tigers play in person.  So my wife and I decided to turn the lemons life threw at us into lemonade and started researching to see if the Tigers were playing in a city that would be nice to visit for a family summer vacation during a peanut allergy friendly game.  We discovered Toronto was hosting a peanut free section while playing Detroit and made a road trip out of the occasion.

The Toronto Blue Jays really did a wonderful job making fans suffering from food allergies feel comfortable going to the stadium to go see a game live from the stands. Everyone with tickets to the peanut allergy friendly section entered an entrance to the stadium that took you directly to the seating area to reduce any potential contact with allergens.  The section was power washed and checked to make sure it was cleaned of any peanut shells prior to the game.  The concessions closest to the section was also cleaned and took a break from selling peanuts that game.  A few extra staff policed the area to make sure no one brought any peanuts within the restricted area plus one of the medical teams normally on duty was re-situated to be close by just in case someone did have an allergic reaction.  These weren’t overly expensive or difficult accommodations to make but they made a big difference in allowing the people with peanut allergies and their families to have a fun and safe outing at the ball park.  Efforts like those by the Toronto Blue Jays show that peanuts don’t need to be banned from a stadium to avoid disenfranchising baseball fans who suffer from this food allergy; but rather showing a little consideration can make a big difference in providing an opportunity for a dad or mom to take their kid to a game for a family outing they might not otherwise been able to have.

While in Toronto we also did some site seeing exploring the city’s waterfront, taking a ferry ride along the Lake Ontario shoreline, and visiting the Centreville Amusement Park.  Located on an island in Toronto’s harbor, this attraction features more than 30 rides meant to amuse children between the ages of 3 and 10 making it a perfect spot to visit with my twins who were right in the middle of that age range during our trip.  My kids loved riding the roller coaster which was just the perfect size for them. The pony rides were a big hit too!  Combining the baseball game with some other fun activities really made for a great family vacation in Toronto.

We’re keeping an eye out for other to travel where we can combine enjoying watching a Tigers game from a peanut allergy friendly space with being tourists in a city during a family vacation.  The Minnesota Twins do an incredible job working with their local Anaphylaxis & Food Allergy Association in organizing a “peanut controlled zone” on various nights throughout their season.  Going to see a game at Target Field is on our to do list for sometime soon and is one of the most likely scenarios as the Twins are in the same division as the Tigers.  We’d also like to catch a game in Baltimore or DC if possible and visit the Capital while in the area.  Of course no city is off limits if we can afford the trip and work out the logistics.

A few tips if you are dealing with a peanut allergy and want to go to a game:

  • Start searching for games offering a peanut allergy friendly section early in the year before the baseball season starts.  Many of these special opportunities take place early in the season when attendance is lagging and teams need people to fill stadium seats.  Also many of these opportunities sell out, especially the ones that take place during the summer months.  Reserve your spots as soon as you can.
  • Take the same precautions you would take in any other public space.  Carry an epi-pen, have disinfectant wipes for surfaces you may be cautious of, and beware of food for both ingredients and contamination.
  • It doesn’t seem like it would be the case with all the concession stands they have, but most stadiums will let you bring your own food into the game with you.  Consider packing your own snacks.
  • Compare prices between teams offering a peanut free area to see if you are getting a good deal or being ripped off.  Some teams really are trying to provide an accessible affordable experience for fans while others are trying to fleece fans to make some extra money off of people’s medical condition.
  • Locating information on many team’s websites about peanut free accommodations can be a chore.  Sometimes it is easier to just google the team name with the terms “peanut free” /  “peanut allergy” or just call a club’s sales department to ask them directly about opportunities.
  • Minor League games can often be just as much fun as going to see a Major League team play.  Don’t forget to see what types of accommodations and special events they are offering as well.

For more information about peanut allergies, please visit Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) www.foodallergy.org and Kids with Food Allergies (a division of the Allergy & Asthma Foundation of America) www.kidswithfoodallergies.org.  Baseball fans with peanut allergies should also bookmark www.peanutfreebaseball.com which does a nice job of providing updates on teams providing peanut free areas.