Editors’ Note: Inspired by The New York Times, June 23, 2020.
Buy me some peanuts and crackerjacks . . . well, it won’t be possible to buy peanuts this year or Crackerjacks, or hot dogs at the ball park. And a big loser, along with the public, will be the Virginia peanut, the premier legume that makes the cut and leads the team for the ballpark trade, bred as it is for its size and the look of its shell.
Virginia, Mother of Presidents and of the Baseball Park Peanut (see photo).
Within the pantheon of concessions sidelined by the pandemic, the fate of ballpark peanuts is but one. Roasted in their shells and tossed from stadium vendors to fans with great ritual and panache, peanuts have been part of the national pastime for nearly 125 years. They have more cultural heft than hot dogs, and a more onerous coronavirus tale, too. In addition, ballparks may be one of the last places at which peanuts can be consumed, given that its consumption in schools and at children’s activities has been curtailed due to childhood allergies. The peanut is also known as the groundnut, goober, or monkey nut.
Today, most of the 2.3 million pounds of in-shell peanuts consumed during a typical baseball season are languishing in cold storage, waiting — like the fans — for an opening day at the park that is unlikely to come for some time. Baseball teams both minor and major are trying to find a way to schedule a season, but there may be too few in the stands to shell out $4 or $5 for a bag of the Virginia delicacy.
Teams postponed or canceled orders. Farmers, who had harvested peanuts for the 2020 baseball season in October, had already shipped them to the roasters and been paid.
The pandemic shut down the season before it even started. Teams postponed or canceled orders. Farmers, who had harvested peanuts for the 2020 baseball season in October, had already shipped them to the roasters and been paid.
“We are basically left holding the peanuts,” said a vice president for sales and marketing at Hampton Farms, the North Carolina-based peanut and peanut butter company that roasts and packages most of the peanuts sold at baseball stadiums.
A peanut trade group is scrambling, plotting a round of promotions featuring free bags of in-shell peanuts that will remind armchair baseball fans that they don’t need to wait to return to the stadium to crack some shells. Grocery stores are planning promotions to move more bags of team-branded peanuts. At the same time, peanut butter remains an easy solution for a nation that finds itself suddenly eating every meal at home. PB&J meals rule.
While farmers are left holding their nuts, the nation’s baseball fans meanwhile must continue to hold their collective breaths behind masks. Play Ball! will be heard at some time.