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Minor League Ballpark In Hartford, Conn., Goes Peanut-Free


A baseball team in Hartford, Conn., has broken with an old tradition. It has banned peanuts from the ballpark so people with allergies can enjoy the game with everyone else. The Hartford Yard Goats are the first professional baseball team in the U.S. to get rid of peanuts. Connecticut Public Radio's Frankie Graziano was in the stands as the team embarked on a peanut-free era.

FRANKIE GRAZIANO, BYLINE: People have sung the chorus of "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" for a century.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing) Take me out to the ball game. Take me out to the crowd.

GRAZIANO: One of the most famous lines is sung here by fans at a recent Hartford Yard Goats home game.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing) Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks. I don't care if we ever get back. So let's...

GRAZIANO: But now that the stadium is peanut-free, that line has been cut. For fan Colleen Joyce, that just seems wrong.

COLLEEN JOYCE: Yeah, it has to be in the song. Those are the original lyrics. You don't just get to change that.

GRAZIANO: Peanuts and Cracker Jacks are out of the song and off the menu. The ballpark is peanut-free and friendly to people with nut allergies. At a Screaming Goat concession stand, Joe and Celia Wheeler are in line ordering dinner.

JOE WHEELER: Two jumbo hot dogs and a order of fries.

GRAZIANO: Celia says she's a big fan of peanuts. She's got some at home next to her couch. Wheeler's got a problem with an outright ban.

CELIA WHEELER: I don't like that. I think everyone should, you know, be responsible for their own well-being. So if you can't have peanuts, don't have it. But if I want peanuts, I should be able to have it.

GRAZIANO: But Gina Salvatore represents a popular new school opinion. She was sitting with a friend behind the first base dugout.

GINA SALVATORE: There's always a chance to switch up traditions no matter how long you've loved baseball. And if it really comes down to the fact that there are no peanuts at the field, I don't think you're a real fan.

GRAZIANO: There's a ton of other things to eat at this ballpark. Vendors sell donuts wrapped in bacon. There's also a piece of chicken sandwiched between two toasted Rice Krispie Treats. That's what Kyle Constable ordered. He actually would have gotten peanuts tonight like every other game he goes to, but he's OK with the change.

KYLE CONSTABLE: It's kind of a tradition for me to get them, but it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make if it makes the ballpark a better place for kids to be at who have this allergy, people to be at who have this allergy.

GRAZIANO: Kids like 11-year-old Trevor Hooker. If he had gone to a game in the past and breathed in any kind of peanut dust or residue...

TREVOR HOOKER: I could end up, like, seriously in an anaphylactic reaction and end up in the hospital and possibly die.

GRAZIANO: The team invited first-timers like Trevor Hooker to the ballgame and even had them on field for a pregame ceremony. That was a nice gesture, but Yard Goats General Manager Mike Abramson says it was also part strategy.

MIKE ABRAMSON: I didn't get a single person who said a negative thing about it. I asked in all the stands if anybody asked for peanuts. They said a few people at each stand did. When they told them that we didn't offer it, they just got something else. So I really thought when you get down to the game level it would not be an issue, and it appears not to have been.

GRAZIANO: While the Hooker family can now watch baseball in Hartford, they hope peanut-free catches on at more ballparks across the nation so that Trevor and other allergy sufferers can also enjoy America's pastime. For NPR News, I'm Frankie Graziano in Hartford, Conn.


SHAPIRO: And by the way, if you were wondering about the lyrics to this song now in Hartford, it goes, buy me a hot dog and a Yard Goats cap.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frankie Graziano joined CPBN in October of 2011 as a sports producer. In addition to reporting for WNPR, Graziano produces feature profiles for CPTV and the web.