The Colorado Rockies are joining the list of Major League Baseball teams extending alcohol sales at home games.
Fans will be able to buy alcohol until the end of the eighth inning at Coors Field, beginning with the Rockies’ next home game on April 17.
The move comes as a series of MLB rule changes, particularly the new pitch clock, have shaved an average of 31 minutes off of game times in 2023.
The Rockies said the decision came “after monitoring the effects of the 2023 MLB rule changes at Coors Field and other ballparks across Major League Baseball.”
To combat that time crunch, the Rockies and at least five other teams — the Houston Astros, 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 have seventh-inning cutoffs, but haven't ruled out changes.
“Totally makes sense to me,” said Tom Lienhardt, who was sipping on a beer Tuesday night before the Brewers-Diamondbacks game at Chase Field. “Since the games are shorter, you’ve got to adjust.”
Teams historically have stopped selling alcohol after the seventh.
At least one team, the Baltimore Orioles, already sold alcohol through the eighth inning, or until 3 1/2 hours after first pitch, whichever came first.
The considerably shorter MLB games are on track to be the sport’s lowest since 1984.
The minor leagues played with the pitch clock last season. At least one minor league general manager — Kevin Mahoney of the Class A Brooklyn Cyclones — said there was no dropoff 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 confirmed to MLB.com that their team's 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 says 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.
A pitcher with the Philadelphia Phillies is criticizing the teams who have made the decision to extend beer sales.
Matt Strahm said Thursday on the Baseball Isn't Boring podcast that teams should be moving the cutoff for beer sales up to the sixth inning, rather than stretching to the eighth or later, since fans will have less time to sober up and drive home.
“The reason we stopped it in the seventh before was to give our fans time to sober up and drive home safe, correct?" Strahm said. “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 and drive home?
“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 suggested team owners should re-evaluate whether the extension of beer sales looks out for the safety of fans, or whether it's a “way to make their dollars back.”
AP Baseball Writers Ronald Blum, Noah Trister and Stephen Hawkins, and AP Sports Writers Dave Campbell, Alanis Thames and Ryan Kryska contributed to this report.