“ Take me out to the ball game, take me out to the crowd, I’m allergic to peanuts and cracker jacks … “
Ahhhhh baseball, the great American pastime!!
I never dreamed I would be afraid to take my child to a ballpark. But then again, I never imagined that my child would have a list of 12 food allergies by 9 months old.
That first summer, as we re-learned the basics of living to accommodate Shaun’s allergies, I truly believed that taking him to a baseball game would be impossible. Thoughts of peanuts and peanut hulls littering the concrete, sunflower seeds being shelled and tossed aside, sticky ice cream dripping everywhere …. Frightening.
Too many allergens + too many people × a highly unpredictable environment = a RISK I was not willing to take!
BUT I was wrong.
In time, I found myself more comfortable with how food allergies looked for Shaun (example, he gets severe hives upon contact but is not anaphylactic unless he ingests the food protein he is allergic to). Knowing things like this helped me to make a plan of action that would allow us to keep him safe. I had become more confident in assessing where the risks might be and finding ways to reduce their possible impact on our experience. (Don’t misunderstand, there is still always a risk)
So at 3.5 years old (with 7 food allergies) we successfully took Shaun to a Hartford Yard Goats baseball game! Little man even got a game ball!
Here is how we made it happen!
Gather information on the ballpark:
Start with the park website (look for a stadium reference guide) or a phone call to the stadium’s office. (MLB Offices)
- Do they have a peanut free game or section in their stadium?
- What is their entrance and carry in policy? How should you handle bringing your food? Is there a special entrance that is set up to check bags with food and medication?
- Where are their first aid locations in the stadium? (It may influence where you choose to sit)
- Can you leave a notification with the medical team of the game that you will be attending and the location of your seats once you have your tickets?
Pick your game & seats:
Here are two elements you have control over:
Game date and seats are a personal decision that you can make to ease some of your worries!
Pick a game …
- revisit the dates of the possible “peanut free games.”
- Reflect on when other conditions connected to food allergies (such as seasonal allergies, asthma, eczema or chronic hives) typically flare up.
For example, if you know your hives and asthma are bad during May & June because of springtime seasonal allergies, then maybe choose a game mid-summer. This way you’re feeling your best before you even enter the ballpark.
As for your seats …
- consider the information you gathered about the stadium
- the rate of reaction and the sensitivity level of the food allergy at hand
- your anxiety about attending the game.
From these thoughts, find a location that allows you to minimize anxiety leading to a better overall experience.
For us, we wanted to sit at the end of a row in case we needed to move quickly. We also didn’t attend a major league game but rather a double-A game which is played in a much smaller stadium. Therefore I was not as concerned about the proximity of our seats to the first aid location.
** If you are attending with a larger size group, consider a seating option that would allow you to surround the person with the food allergies. Rather than all sitting in the same row pick a block of seats in consecutive rows! It creates a bit of a buffer.
Thoughts for Game Day:
- Pack a bag, with safe foods!
- If your allergies allow for you to find safe food in the ballpark, fantastic! For our family, it is most reliable (at this point) to pack Shaun’s food!
- Pack all needed medication! And it never hurts to keep a copy of the emergency action care plan on hand.
- Pack lots of wipes!!
- These can be used to wipe down surfaces before sitting or eating at them.
- Consider wearing long pants, long sleeves, or closed toed shoes.
- For those who have more intense contact reactions, this option adds another layer of physical protection between you and the allergens. You can wipe your seat, but you can’t control the wind. (This might not be ideal for scorching August games – another possible thing to consider when you plan and purchase your game tickets)
- Be ready and confident to advocate if you need to!
- Most places are very understanding when it comes to food allergies, but you never know when someone will question you showing up with food and medication! Learn your rights and speak up … even if it is as simple as “I am allowed under the Americans with Disabilities Act to have this with me.”
**The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) applies to those with food allergies! The actual document is VERY legal (for good reason), so I have also included two resources that might help you learn about your rights under this federal law.
Enjoy the game!! It is a milestone moment!! You have planned and worked hard to make a trip to the ballpark a reality!
We enjoyed every moment with Shaun at his first game, and have gone back several times since.
A note about Dunkin’ Donuts Park, home to the Hartford Yard Goats:
In February 2019, “The Hartford Yard Goats Baseball Club, the Double-A Eastern League Affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, announced it would no longer sell shelled peanuts and Cracker Jack at Dunkin’ Donuts Park in an effort to make the venue more accessible for those with peanut and tree nut allergies.” See the full announcement here
As it seems to be with most things in the world right now, many people are agitated the Yard Goats Ball Club adopted a policy that will restrict them from eating the traditional peanuts and cracker jacks.
This allergy momma is filled with gratitude!
Now I know this seems obvious, but I would like to breakdown the “why?” of my gratitude.
If you recall, we face more than just a peanut allergy with Shaun. So why would I feel gratitude for this new policy?
- Because with this policy, I know that this organization will help me develop (at the very minimum) reasonable accommodations so we can participate.
- It is bringing awareness to the public that the food allergy community desperately needs
- The policy stands as a model to other ballparks & stadiums that the allergy community matters!
- That accommodation can be made while remaining hugely successful!
It is a tremendous gesture of compassion to those fans living with food allergies!
I extend a sincere thank you to Tim Restall, the Yard Goats President and the entire Yard Goats Organization for being amazing Food Allergy Ambassadors!
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