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Shorter games, extended beer sales for some MLB teams

With the pitch clock having a tangible effect on shortening game times, some teams are addressing the thirst of fans by implementing extended beer sales, adding an inning before sales are cut off.

That decreased MLB beer sales would be caused by shorter game times isn’t an unexpected side effect–it was a subject measured in the MiLB tryouts of pitch clocks–so MLB teams and their concessionaires were prepared with contingency plans.

In the case of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Houston Astros, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins and Texas Rangers, alcohol sales have been extended from the seventh inning to the eighth inning. (The Baltimore Orioles had already been selling through the eighth.) We expect other teams and concessionaires to follow suit unless something goes terribly wrong at one of these ballparks.

There’s been a lot of bad information out there about extended beer sales, including some total bogus numbers on missed revenues–one pundit estimated teams would miss out on $1 million per game from losing that one inning of beer sales, for example–but in the heavily studied MiLB games involving a pitch clock in 2022, some MiLB teams reported no drop-off in beer sales at all last year:

MLB hopes quicker games will be more appealing to fans as it tries to rebuild attendance following the pandemic. [Brooklyn] Cyclones general manager Kevin Mahoney said minor league teams haven’t experienced a drop in concessions sales.

“We used to notice that at 9:30, fans would get up in like blocks of 10, 12, 14 at a time from different sections and leave. And I used to think, why is everybody leaving in the seventh inning?” Mahoney said. “Now on most nights we’re in the ninth inning at 9:30 and they don’t leave because the game is almost over.”

All the big concessionaires–Delaware North, Levy, Aramark–use analytics tools to track sales in multiple ways–by stand, by time, by item, etc. So we know that beer sales, of course, don’t occur on a flat line: most sales come before the game and during the first three innings, tapering off as the game progresses. Extending sales by that inning will help bottom lines, but it’s not likely everyone will rush to the concessions stand for that last beer, especially in the middle of the eighth or so. And, of course, by that time anyone truly craving a brew will likely hit a local watering hole instead of paying $12 for a ballpark brew.

Still, any talk of beer sales will bring out some playing the morality card. Here’s what Phillies pitcher Matt Strahm–who plays in a city where fans once booed Santa Claussays about extended beer sales:

“The reason we stopped hitting the seventh before was to give our fans time to sober up and drive home safe, correct? So now with a faster pace game, and me just being a man of common sense, if the game is going to finish quicker, would we not move the beer sales back to the sixth inning to give our fans time to sober up,” he explained. “Instead, we’re going to the eighth, and now you’re putting our fans and our family at risk driving home with people who have just drank beers 22 minutes ago.”

Strahm continued, “I’m not surprised. When you mess with billionaires’ dollars, to find a way to make their dollars back. My thing is, when you’re looking at the safety of your fans, that’s probably not the smartest decision to extend it into the eighth. And, again, just being a common sense thinker, I think as a fan of the game, and just looking out for people, it would make more sense he stopped the sales in the sixth.”

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