A Nut-Free Night

“Take me out to the ball game, take me out with the crowd. Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks, I don’t care if I ever get back…” – Jack Norworth, Take Me Out to the Ball Game, 1908

Everyone knows the lyrics to this popular tune that is performed during the seventh inning stretch at every baseball stadium around the country. What we don’t consider is the fact that the two popular snacks in the song have prevented many fans from ever attending a game in person.

According to The Peanut Institute, approximately 1% of people are allergic to peanuts. These allergies can range from mild to severe. Some allergies can be so severe that if even a trace amount of peanut is ingested it can cause a reaction.

Tree nut allergies are also one of the most common food allergies. Tree nuts include walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios, and Brazil nuts. As with a peanut allergy, reactions can range from mild to life-threatening.

This is unfortunate for any baseball fan who may have an allergy as peanuts and cracker jacks – which contain nuts – are a staple food option at most ballparks. Another popular game snack that appears in more ballparks each summer would be cinnamon roasted nuts such as almonds cashews, and pecans. One of the best smells at FirstEnergy Stadium is the smell of a fresh batch of cinnamon roasted almonds being mixed at the Nuts for You stand in the plaza.

As with everything they do, the Fightin Phils take all of their fans into consideration when making plans for each season and those fans with nut allergies are not forgotten. Each summer one game is a pre-determined Allergy Awareness and Nut-Free Night.

While having an allergy awareness night may not seem like a big deal to some, to those fans who are unable to attend a game under the normal circumstances it means a lot. There is also a lot of preparation that goes into making sure the night is a success and a great outing for everyone. Prior to the game, every seat in the stadium is given a cleaning to remove any residue that may have been left from the day before. Two sections are given an extra scrub down and designated as “Allergy-Awareness Seating” for those folks who may have severe allergies and want to be extra cautious. While the cleaning is taking place, every package of peanuts and cracker jacks is removed from all of the concession stands that sell them on a normal night. Any other snacks that may contain nuts, such as cookies or the Choco Tacos we sell in the upstairs ice cream stand, are also removed and not offered that night. The snacks are removed and are not offered during the game, hence the name Nut-Free Night. While you get the occasional fan who grumbles about not being able to buy a bag of peanuts, normally all of the fans are good-natured about it and very few complaints are heard.

Another change that occurs is the removal of the Nuts for You stand. Since there may be fans who are allergic to tree nuts and not necessarily peanuts, it is important to make sure they can also enjoy the game. Since Nuts for You sells both almonds and cashews the stand is shut down for the night and the movable stand is moved out of the plaza to avoid the possibility of any type of reaction to the nuts.

While I have been fortunate enough to have not had to be concerned with an allergy to foods such as peanuts or tree nuts, I have known people who have dealt with this issue since they were young. Over the years of working at the stadium, I have answered numerous questions about whether the ice cream contains nuts, are the fries cooked in peanut oil, and are there nuts in the Dippin’ Dots. While the answer to all three of these questions is no, I have asked in the past how severe the allergy was because in the case of the ice cream and Dippin’ Dots, both come with warnings that they are packaged in factories that do use nuts in some products. In most cases the parent says their child will be fine while in others we have dealt with some disappointed children who quickly learn that they will not be getting the dish of chocolate ice cream they have been waiting for all game.

I think the fact the Fightin Phils have truly taken into consideration all of their fans and have worked so hard to give everyone a fun night at the ballpark just goes to show that the organization is more than just a baseball team; they truly care about the community. If you or a baseball fan you know would love to get to a game this summer, but suffer from nut allergies, I encourage you to visit the Fightin’s website and learn more about Allergy Awareness Night. The 2017 Allergy Awareness Night game is scheduled for Thursday, July 13.

Confessional: Have you ever dealt with allergies that have kept you from doing something you enjoy? If not, what is one food item that you would miss if you were allergic?

Briscoe Disco

I always say one of the best parts about working at FirstEnergy Stadium is the community and family bond between the fans and the employees. The strength of that bond is visible in many ways, but it is at its strongest when one of its members is down for the count.

For more years than I can easily count, Adam Briscoe has been a constant fixture at Fightin Phils games. He has also become a strong presence at Reading Royals hockey games. A well-known figure on the Reading sports scene, Briscoe is most famous for his personal style of dancing known as the Briscoe Disco.

If you have not had the opportunity to experience the Briscoe Disco, let me try to explain it to you. Hold your arms out in front of your body and wave them up and down at a steady pace. Keep this constant motion going as you sit at your computer or walk around the room. You have now done the Briscoe Disco. If your arms are tired after doing it for a minute or two keep practicing because at Fightins’ and Royals’ games, it goes on the entire time.

At Fightins’ games, Briscoe walks through the stadium during the game encouraging fans to get up, dance, and cheer for the Fightins. Kids love to dance along with him and every Fightins’ win is celebrated with the Briscoe Disco.

While it is neat to watch the fans interact with Briscoe during the games, I was fortunate enough during my internship to see him interact more with people inside the organization. He would come into the office during the day just to say hi and after games the players would invite him into the clubhouse to hang out for a bit. Everyone knew if a game was cancelled, there would probably be a message on someone’s answering machine expressing Adam’s disappointment. As someone who does not drive, Briscoe has often received rides home from front office members and other game staff employees who are watching out for him and helping to keep him safe.

He’s a sports fan who loves coming to see the teams and fans as much as they love seeing him. This love has been more evident recently as the community has rallied behind him in a time of need.

Briscoe suffered some serious injuries recently after being hit by a car. The Reading sports community took the news hard and immediately took up the responsibility of providing Briscoe and his family with all the help they could. Both the Fightins and the Royals have offered their help to his family in their time of need. A donations page set up by the Royals organization is raising funds to help with any medical expenses the family is facing and has achieved just over half of its goal. Fans of both organizations have been sending get well wishes and thoughts to Briscoe via the teams’ social media pages, with many fans encouraging him to get well soon so they can dance with him again.

I have watched Briscoe at the stadium over the years and have even reached a point where he will say hi to me in passing. Knowing that he is someone who is not very outspoken, it makes me smile to think that he has seen me around the ballpark enough to feel comfortable with a simple greeting. I am keeping Briscoe in my thoughts and am hopeful that come this summer, he will once again be at the ballpark proudly belting out the lyrics to the National Anthem and dancing the Briscoe Disco with his many adoring fans.

Get well soon, Briscoe!

Confessional: There is no confessional question with this post. I simply ask that you send some good thoughts to Briscoe and his family. If you would like to, please feel free to share any stories you may have of Briscoe either at the stadium or at the hockey arena.

Mascot Mania

Have you ever seen a turtle playing the tambourine? Have you ever heard a duck sing?  While this may sound like the tagline for a new children’s movie, in reality it is what takes place every Saturday night in Baseballtown.  Every Saturday night during the season, the Reading Phillies Mascot Band performs live on the Weston Center Winning Smiles stage.  With Quack on lead vocals and guitar, Change-Up on percussion, Screwball on drums, Blooper on guitar, and Bucky on bass, the group never fails to entertain its young fans.

One of the most entertaining aspects of any sporting event is watching the mascot(s). People running around in fur costumes that come in all shapes and sizes for the sole purpose of entertaining the crowds.  There are animal mascots, human mascots, and mascots that are neither animal or human.  The job of a mascot is to move through the crowds during a game and interact with the fans.  Even if their team is losing, they must remain excited and entertaining for the spectators.

The Reading Phillies have six main mascots that appear each game.  They are Blooper the Hound Dog, Bucky the Beaver, Quack the Rubber Duck, Change-Up the Turtle, Screwball, and the Crazy Hot Dog Vendor.  Throughout each game, these mascots do everything from dancing on the dugouts to signing autographs for young fans to throwing hot dogs into the crowd while riding an ostrich.  There are some days when fans may find it more entertaining to watch the mascots than the actual game.

I think the one thing about mascots that always catches me off guard is the fact that while the majority of young fans adore them, there are always a few who are absolutely terrified of them.  In the past eight seasons, I have seen a number of children start screaming, or crying, or trying to run away when they see a mascot.  Even if they are being held or are sitting in a stroller, the children will do whatever they can to escape.  I have also overheard numerous parents telling their children that there is no need to be scared, the large red creature with the baseball head only wants to say hi and get a high-five.  Needless to say, the situation does not usually get any better.

In the end, the mascots provide excellent entertainment for the younger baseball fans and will continue to create memories for many more seasons in Baseballtown.

Reading Phillies 2012: Top 10 Moments/Memories

The 2012 season has officially come to a close and it is time to sum up my top 10 moments and memories from the season.

1. Darin Ruf- Every Reading Phillies fan, and even a majority of Philadelphia Phillies fans, know the name Darin Ruf.  They even know him by his nickname, “Babe Ruf.”  Ruf finished the season with 38 home runs, 104 RBIs, and 32 doubles.  His 38 home runs in the regular season broke the R-Phils single season record of 37, set by Ryan Howard in 2004.  He finished the season as the Eastern League MVP and Rookie of the Year, the Joe Bauman award winner for the most home runs in the Minor Leagues, the Reading Phillies team MVP, and the Philadelphia Phillies Paul Owens award winner for position players.  The end of the season brought with it the greatest award of them all.  Darin Ruf was called up to the big leagues on September 10, 2012.

1. Justin Friend- Lurking in the shadow of the record-setting season of Darin Ruf is R-Phils closer, Justin Friend.  With a perfect season of 24 saves in 24 appearances, Friend tied the R-Phils single-season record of 24 saves.  He shares the record with Toby Borland (1991) and Wayne Gomes (1996.)  He finished the season with a 0.23 ERA.

3. Jiwan James- Not to be left out of the top 10 moments conversation is Reading Phillies outfielder, Jiwan James.  James’ biggest moments came on June 9, 2012 and July 14, 2012.  June 9 saw a Reading Phillies victory with the help of an inside-the-park home run by James.  Following the game on July 14, James found himself the talk of the social media world and the sports world as his jaw-dropping catch made national headlines.  The catch, which resulted in his glove falling over the outfield wall while James fell to the warning track on his back, became the top play on Sportscenter’s Top 10.

4. Eastern Division Playoffs-For the second season in a row, the Reading Phillies kept fans on the edge of their seats as they fought for a spot in the playoffs. Coming into the final series of the regular season, they needed to win two games to win the wildcard spot.  Many fans, including myself, spent a very stressful weekend keeping track of the scores as the team played their final games in Portland, ME. In the end, they edged out the New Britain Rock Cats for the final spot for a second consecutive season. Although they lost in the first round to Trenton, the playoffs provided some exciting games for Reading Phillies fans and a first time trip to a different stadium for this fan.

5. All-Star Classic and Home Run Derby- My first post provided a general overview of this year’s Eastern League All-Star game and Home Run Derby.  As one of the most anticipated moments of the season, the Reading Phillies pulled out all the stops and did not disappoint.  It was an amazing experience and I’m thrilled that I was able to be a part of it.

6. Philadelphia Phillies Promotions- One of the best parts of working for a minor league team is watching to see the players who get the call up to the big leagues throughout the season.  This year, the Reading Phillies had their fair share of current and former players that made the trip to Philadelphia.  The list includes: Pitchers Tyler Cloyd, B.J. Rosenberg, Jake Diekman, Justin DeFratus, and Phillippe Aumont, catcher Steve Lerud, and outfielder/first baseman Darin Ruf.

7. Performing the National Anthem-Two times during the season, I had the opportunity to perform the National Anthem with my sister, Ariane. We received numerous compliments from both fans and staff members, and it was nice to know that we even surprised some people with how we sounded. The National Anthem is always an important part of any baseball game, and it was a wonderful experience that I hope will occur again in the future.

8. “Plaza Posse” and Wawa Runs- One of my fondest memories from this season is getting to spend time with a group of friends that eventually was dubbed the “plaza posse.”  After almost every game we would hang out in the Vist Financial Plaza talking and listening to the post-game concert when there was one.  The group would make frequent trips to Wawa and bring back food to make the night even better. It provided some good stress relief and was a great opportunity to spend time with friends at the park.

9. DJ HeyBeef and Mike Cisco- This year Reading Phillies fans got to see a different side of two players.  For two postgame concerts a performance was given by DJ HeyBeef, also known as RHP Trevor May.  May is the number 1 prospect within the Phillies organization and it was interesting to see how people reacted to his music. He wanted to share a hobby that was unrelated to baseball, and the fans embraced his music.  Both nights the plaza was packed with fans and teammates dancing and cheering.  Mike Cisco, a relief pitcher for the Reading Phillies and Lehigh Valley IronPigs, performed some original country songs and played guitar during a postgame concert.  Most fans would not have guessed that he would be a country music fan and it was also nice to see him willing to share one of his hobbies with people he does not know all that well.  One of the best things was seeing the rest of the team at each of the concerts to show their support and maybe offer a little playful heckling.

10. Opening Night Doubleheader- Opening Day brings a certain amount of excitement with it each season.  Fans are ready to head back to the ballpark and cheer on the newest crop of players along with some familiar faces.  The 2012 opening night brought with it twice the amount of excitement as the Reading Phillies played a doubleheader against the Portland Sea Dogs.  With double the amount of baseball, fans were given a great chance to preview what was to come in the next five months, and they were not disappointed. The R-Phils opened the season with a doubleheader sweep that kickstarted a strong month of April.  It also gave the staff a chance to work in all the special between-innings shenanigans and get the fans excited to see what might happen each night.

Well it was difficult to narrow down the top moments and memories from this past season, but I think I picked the best ones.  It was a season that was filled with both excitement and disappointment and I am glad to say that I was a part of it.  Although the season is over, keep checking back for more insight from this intern.  There are plenty of stories left to tell!