Without Baseball, There Are a Lot of Unsold Peanuts Sitting in Cold Storage Right Now
During a normal year, Major League Baseball teams would've played close to 80 games by now, putting them almost halfway through their 162-game season. The league would be inching toward the mid-July All-Star Break, sportswriters would be arguing about pitching rotations and speaking in indecipherable acronyms, and your grandad would have his annual summer outburst about the designated hitter.
But this isn't anywhere close to being a normal year, for obvious reasons. After months of uncertainty, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced this week that baseball will be coming back with a shortened 60-game season that will start either July 23 or July 24, followed by an optimistic-sounding "regular" month of postseason playoffs.
All of the games will, of course, be played in empty ballparks with zero fans in attendance, which will affect more than just the players and the on-field personnel. (Although the umpires will probably be delighted not to have their eyesight, judgement, or mental fitness questioned every other night for six straight months.) The peanut industry, for example, has been trying to figure out what to do with literally millions of legumes that won't be sold and eaten between innings this year.
According to Sports Illustrated, Major League Baseball fans eat somewhere between 4 and 7 million bags of peanuts during a regular season and, for some manufacturers, baseball stadiums account for up to a quarter of their annual sales. The bags of roasted nuts that would've been sold at ballparks were harvested last October, but there's literally nowhere for them to go right now. "We are basically left holding the peanuts,” said Tom Nolan, the vice president of sales and marketing for Hampton Farms, told the New York Times. (The North Carolina-based company is the largest provider of in-shell peanuts to MLB stadiums.)
The peanuts that you're thinking about right now are the Virginia variety, which account for about 14 percent of all peanuts that are grown in the United States. (Despite the name, they can be grown in a handful of other states too, including North and South Carolina.) Virginias are the same peanuts that are available for free in Five Guys and whose soft shells have littered the floors at some chain restaurants—but those aren't exactly being cracked open and eaten like they were in the Before Times either.
According to the Times, the National Peanut Board is currently trying to figure out what to do with all of those nuts, and the next steps might involve something as simple as in-store promotions, reminding people that they could still eat peanuts while they're watching baseball games in their own homes.
On the bright side, retail sales of shelled Virginia peanuts increased 15 percent last month, compared to one year ago, which could be due to a number of factors, including their long shelf-life, the fact that they make an easy snack for temporarily home-schooled kids, to (no joke) the joy that some people have gotten from leaving them out for backyard wildlife.
The best solution might not be dressing up like a peanut vendor and throwing one nut at a time to the nearest squirrel, but it's definitely the cutest one. It's also less controversial than the National League's decision to use a designated hitter this season. Whatever you do, don't mention that to your grandad.