The Wests have lived in Colorado for 15 years, but Friday night marked just the second time they’ve made the trip as a family from Longmont to Denver to see a Rockies game at Coors Field.
Father Scott, mother Erika, daughters Maddie and Sierra, son Erik and Duffy, the family dog, were all in attendance and wearing purple — well, except for Maddie, who was in grey, and Duffy, who is a dog — to watch the Rockies take on the Arizona Diamondbacks to kick off a 10-game home stand.
The Wests make the trip so few times not because they’re indifferent about baseball, or because they’re just jumping on the bandwagon as the team’s won 18 of its first 30 games. It’s hard for the Wests to watch games here for a more uncommon reason: 12-year-old Erik is allergic to peanuts.
Erik, who’s part of the roughly 1.4 percent of U.S. children who have a peanut allergy according to a 2010 study, takes special precautions to avoid places where peanuts might be present. Ballparks are out of the question, except for the one night every year when the Rockies host Peanut Allergy Friendly Night.
The Wests purchased tickets ahead of time to sit in a special suite behind the right-field foul pole that the Rockies go to great lengths to peanut-proof.
First, the suite is scrubbed several times over. Peanut Allergy Friendly Night is always the first game of a homestand to ensure no peanut residue is left over from a previous night’s game. The Rockies also don’t sell tickets to the nine rows directly in front of the suite to form a buffer. And, of course, all peanuts are removed from the nearby concession stands.
“It’s pretty cool that they have this,” says Erik, who’s a sixth-grader at Trail Ridge Middle School. “I’m happy they’re doing well this season. Number one in the West.”
The Wests first learned of their son’s allergy when he was 15 months old. Erik accidentally got hold of a peanut and soon after went into anaphylactic shock.
“He was struggling to breathe,” Erika says. “He swelled up all over. Broke out in hives from head to toe. We had to rush him to the emergency room. It took the better part of the day to get it under control. It was kind of a scary thing.”
Erik has mostly been able to avoid any peanut-related incidents since then, although the Wests did learn when Erik was 2 that he is also allergic to tree nuts. Scott gave Erik a pistachio, not thinking anything of it.
“We didn’t know at the time that I was allergic to tree nuts, too,” Erik says. “I broke out in hives.”
Erik takes special measures to make sure he doesn’t have a reaction. He sanitizes his desk every day at school with a Clorox wipe. During lunch time, he sits at the peanut-free table in Trail Ridge’s cafeteria. He has an Epi-Pen for emergency situations. And Erik also has Duffy, a 6-year-old yellow lab who’s trained to sniff out any presence of peanuts or tree nuts, by his side.
The Wests got Duffy from an organization in Boulder that specializes in training service dogs for children. Duffy accompanies Erik almost everywhere he goes including school.
“I think the last time we were in Denver, we were walking past a Five Guys, which is known for their baskets of peanuts,” Erika says. “All of a sudden, we’re on the far edge. He (Duffy) just kind of pushed us to the far edge. I was like, ‘I’m going to be in the street in a minute. What’s the deal?’ And I look up and I’m like, ‘Oh, OK.'”
There are certain places Erik avoids, like Five Guys, because of his allergy. He’s never been on an airplane and probably never will. He plays football and volleyball, but he gave up baseball a couple years back when going to different little-league parks became too much of a hazard. Big-league ballparks are typically off-limits — save for one night a year.
The Wests first heard about Peanut Allergy Friendly Night from a 9 News story three years ago. Ever since then, they’ve made two of the three games.
“Other than this night, we watch it from home on TV,” Erika says.
“Yeah,” Erik says. “This is pretty fun.”
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