As games shorten, beer sales stretched to 8th

PHOENIX — Thanks to the pitch clock, the action is moving much faster at Major League Baseball games.

It also means a little less time for fans to enjoy a frosty adult beverage.

To combat that time crunch, at least four teams — the Arizona Diamondbacks, Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins and Milwaukee Brewers — have extended alcohol sales through the eighth inning this season. Others, like the Miami Marlins and New York Mets, still stop after the seventh inning, the usual cutoff, but haven’t ruled out changes.

The Baltimore Orioles already sold alcohol through the eighth inning, or until 3½ hours after first pitch, whichever came first.

MLB games have been considerably shorter this season, largely thanks to a series of rule changes, particularly the pitch clock. Through the first week and a half of the season, the average game time was down 31 minutes, on track to be the sport’s lowest since 1984.

The minor leagues played with the pitch clock last season. One minor league general manager, Kevin Mahoney of the High-A Brooklyn Cyclones, said there was no drop-off in concession sales even with shorter games.

Still, some big league teams have felt the need to make adjustments.

The Rangers allowed some alcohol sales in the eighth inning last season but have made that option more widely available in 2023. The team said the move to offer in-seat service to everyone — fans can order on their phones — was done partly in reaction to the pitch clock and the potential of shorter game times so fans would not have to miss extended action waiting in lines at concession stands.

Brewers president of business operations Rick Schlesinger told that their move to extend alcohol sales through the eighth was an experiment.

“If it turns out that this is causing an issue or we feel that it might cause an issue, then we’ll revert to what we have done previously,” Schlesinger said.

MLB said it does not regulate when teams sell alcohol. Most franchises have used the seventh inning as a cutoff, at least partly to avoid overserving customers who could then get in their cars and drive home.

But in reality, most teams already had areas around the ballpark where fans could get alcohol after the seventh, even if the concession stands stopped serving. Many parks are connected to restaurants or have VIP areas where the booze still flows.

“If it cuts off sales in the seventh inning, the eighth inning or the ninth inning, that really doesn’t affect our stance because, regardless, we just don’t want people to drink alcohol and then drive home from the game,” said Erin Payton, regional executive director for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.