How Baseball's New Pitch Clock Could Affect When You Can Buy a Beer

Major League Baseball pitch timer means shorter games — and potentially less time to buy a beer.

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Although one of America’s new favorite pastimes seems to have become binge-watching random shows on Netflix, we somehow still haven’t been thrilled about how long it takes to see a full nine innings’ worth of America’s other favorite pastime, baseball. So Major League Baseball (MLB) made some significant changes to the game before the start of this season, including increasing the size of the bases and putting both pitchers and batters on the clock.

The newly implemented pitch timer gives the pitcher 15 seconds to start their delivery if all three bases are empty, and 20 seconds to start when there’s at least one runner on base. When the clock hits the eight second mark, the batter has to be in the batter’s box and looking at the pitcher. The addition of this clock — which is displayed behind home plate and in the outfield — is meant to speed up play and cut down on all of the game-delaying stuff that can happen between pitches, like batters adjusting (and then immediately re-adjusting) their gloves, and pitchers walking around the mound.

But there’s also been some concern that shorter games will give fans in the stands fewer free minutes to visit the concession stands and to buy beer. As a result, the Milwaukee Brewers are extending alcohol sales for an extra inning, giving spectators the chance to pick up their last Kilted Kolsch or Mudpuppy Porter through the end of the eighth, instead of the end of the seventh.

“This is [reflective] of the fact that the games are shorter,” the Brewers’ President of Business Operations Rick Schlesinger told “Obviously, the safety and the conduct of our fans has primacy. We've had no issues, but it's a small sample size and we're going to continue to test it and see if it makes sense. I know a number of other teams are doing the same thing.”

Sports Illustrated reports that the Texas Rangers are also stretching their booze sales through the end of the eighth “in an effort to maintain consistency and partly in reaction to the timing changes.”

Schlesinger said that the Brewers will be keeping an eye on fan behavior and if things start to get increasingly unruly, they’ll consider cutting sales off earlier in certain seating areas — or even throughout the entire stadium. “I'm comfortable that our people are going to be monitoring the situation well and making sure that people who shouldn't be served won’t be served, regardless of what inning it is,” he added. “The vast majority of fans behave responsibly [...] 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.”

The pitch timer is expected to cut 25-ish minutes from every game; according to The Athletic, this year’s average Opening Day game lasted for 2 hours and 45 minutes, compared to 3 hours and 16 minutes last year. All 120 teams in Minor League Baseball (MiLB) employed the same between-pitch time limit last season, and those games were an average of 25 minutes shorter than the previous year.

But when Baseball America reached out to those Minor League teams to find out if their concession sales dropped, the answer was “Not at all.” Journalist J.J. Cooper said he heard back from over a dozen MiLB teams and none of them reported a decrease in food and drink receipts. One said that shorter games just meant that fans were sticking around for the full nine innings, while another added that people “still eat and drink” the same amount, regardless of the game time. “The 7th-9th innings of a 3 hour, 30 minute game are not high concession sales,” another added.

MLB is just 10 games into its 162-game regular season, so it will be interesting to see what happens as the months pass — and how many more teams change their rules about alcohol sales. In the meantime, if you’re heading to the Brewers’ next home games, maybe raise that eighth inning Upward Spiral IPA towards that ticking clock in the outfield.

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