For fifteen-year-old Antonio Franco, going out to something like a baseball game can be complicated, even dangerous.
“I accidently ate the wrong kind of cookie,” he says, remembering a severe allergic reaction. “We ended up having to rush to the hospital.”
Franco is one of an increasing number of children and teenagers who have severe food allergies, especially to peanuts. Because peanuts and foods containing peanut traces are so common, these kids and their parents are often limited in where they can go for fun.
But Wednesday afternoon, he and a handful of other fans with severe peanut allergies attended their first Royals game worry-free, thanks to "peanut-friendly" events reintroduced by the team this season.
"We've been waiting to take them for years," Brianne Tyrell, mother of 5-year-old twins Camden and Preston, said. "They really wanted to come."
While the Royals had allergy-friendly events in previous years, none were scheduled this season until an outpouring of demand caused the team to change course.
The Facebook group Kansas City Royals Fans For Peanut-Free Baseball, created by parent Janna Miller of Knob Noster, Mo., led the call for the special events.
"I'm happy these guests get to have a good time," Royals Director of Guest Experience Anthony Mozzicato said.
While most fans sweated out the game in 90-degree heat, those attending the allergy-friendly event had a different experience. They watched the game from the air-conditioned and sanitized Joe Burke Suite on the sixth floor of Kauffman stadium, far from the stands - and potential contact with peanuts or shells.
For $55 tickets, the fans also enjoyed a peanut-free catered menu and a visit from mascot Slugger. A registered nurse from the University of Kansas Hospital stood by with Benadryl and EpiPens, which are often carried by people with food allergies to counteract severe allergic reactions.
Event attendees were required to sign a waiver.
Allergists remain uncertain why severe food allergies, especially to peanuts, are on the rise.
The team has scheduled five allergy-friendly events this season and plans to add more, according to Mozzicato. Events in June and late July are already sold out.
Five families with six allergic children attended Wednesday’s event.
One parent joked, “This must be a world record for the most EpiPens in one room.”
The added enthusiasm from the suite did little to help the Royals’s performance, however. The team lost 9 – 3 to the Houston Astros.