Beer and baseball

Let's face it: hot grounders and cold beer go together.

They certainly do at major league ballparks, so why not at Southern Oregon Riverdawgs games at Harry & David Field? We can think of some concerns, but those can be dealt with easily enough.

The Medford City Council has been willing to take just a tiny sip so far, allowing the collegiate-level team to bring in a concessionaire to sell beer during nine weekend games this summer — out of 29 home games.

"We have concerns about appropriate behavior and alcohol," Councilman Bob Strosser said.

Let's be clear: Those concerns are real. But there is every reason to believe they can be handled.

The beer will be sold in a segregated area. Beer will not be allowed in the stands. Fans will be barred from bringing their own alcohol.

Those are reasonable restrictions, and should be enough to prevent any serious problems with overconsumption or rowdy behavior.

Other teams in the region who play the Riverdawgs serve beer at their games — and make a tidy profit doing so. In fact, the Humboldt Crabs in Arcata pack 1,500 people in at home games, while the Riverdawgs draw 200-300.

There may be other reasons for the disparity in turnout, but a welcoming atmosphere certainly plays a role. And at a baseball game, a welcoming atmosphere is enhanced by the sale of cold beer on a warm evening.

If council members are concerned about "appropriate behavior and alcohol," we'd suggest they look no further than the Britt hillside, where more than 1,000 music lovers who congregate for concerts on summer evenings are allowed to bring their own beer and wine as well as buy it from concessionaires. Appropriate behavior doesn't seem to be a problem there.

At the ballpark, beer consumption is restricted to an enclosed area and fans are not allowed to bring their own. A strict ID policy will prevent minors from imbibing.

The fact is, responsible adults can enjoy a beer or two over the course of a baseball game without becoming intoxicated. As long as the concessionaire controls all alcohol being served, it's simple enough to monitor consumption and cut off any fan who tries to overindulge.

With the increasing focus on locally produced food and drink, beer at baseball games has the potential to boost business for Southern Oregon breweries, which are making names for themselves in the region and the state. Featuring a local brewery at a home game could pay dividends not only for the Riverdawgs but for the local economy as well.

If the nine beer nights go off without major problems, the City Council should allow beer sales at all home games next season.

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