Baseball fans are required to shoulder many burdens to support the team: bad pitching, poor fielding, and long losing streaks on the field, awful food choices and outrageous prices at the game.
For many, the most cumbersome (and offensive) burden endured by Major League Baseball fans at the stadium is the beer — especially those at Tropicana field in St. Petersburg.
No matter how good the Tampa Bay Rays are at home, being forced to pay nearly $9 for a Bud Light – a price bordering on usury – is simply beyond the pale (ale) of the average fan.
Of course, if the Rays are winning, the sting of an overpriced beer is not so bad.
However, the era of bad beer at the ballpark (at least in selection, if not price) might be on the way out, according to the Washington Post.
In “The Best Beer in Baseball,” Post writers Kevin Schaul, Kelyn Soong and Dan Steinberg talk about how the addition of craft beers at Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark resulted in a spike of 47 percent in sales from 2012-2013.
An increase in beer selection — from 42 to more than 130 — certainly gives Cincinnati Reds fans a reason to hope, something they can surely use. It is the best beer selection in the entire MLB stadium lineup, and sales of craft beers went up more than 360 percent.
What the Post also learned is that the introduction of craft beers didn’t take away from the bud Light crowd – still the most popular brew at Great American’s Brewery District — but notched out a whole new segment of consumers at the park.
An average Major League team in the 2014 season offers 50 different beers from nearly 25 breweries. Many are new to the craft-beer market, while others (like the Seattle Mariners) have long embraced the trend. Seattle, it should be noted, has been also renowned for its love of hops.
If only the Tampa Bay Rays were one of them.
The Trop, the Post found, languishes near the bottom of the list, offering fewer than 25 separate beers, although teams can change the lineup during the season (as they do on the field).
With more than a half dozen craft-beer breweries springing up within blocks of the field — including the Gold Medal-winning Green Bench Brewery in St. Petersburg, located literally in the shadow of the Trop — this should not be the case. It is not acceptable.
Any MLB stadium is a curious mix of corporate sponsorship, baseball theme park and neighborhood icon — as well as a good neighbor for the adjoining community. Major sponsorships with Anheuser-Busch InBev or MillerCoors are the norm; one look at the signage and naming rights is evidence of that. Nevertheless, there remains room for small, independent brewers at the ballpark — craft beer sales figures in Cincinnati are clear proof.
Yes, Tropicana Field may be in the heart of Florida, but it also rests in the heart of St. Petersburg, as is an increasing love of good brews.
We expect more from the Rays players, shouldn’t we expect better from beers at the Trop?