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Excessive Drinking at Baseball Game Concerns Fans

The home opener for any baseball team and their fans is an exciting game to kick off the new season. However, for the Toronto Blue Jays, excitement has given way to excessive drinking and an aggressive atmosphere that has many Jays fans thinking twice before purchasing tickets.

Laura Tilley was one fan who used to look forward to the first home game of the season, making it an annual tradition to attend. But about a decade ago, she remembers a shift in the way some fans were conducting themselves, many were drunk and out of control. She was willing to put up with this change for a few years, but after witnessing a 10-man fight in her section in 2006 or 2007 that security was slow to stop, Tilley decided it was no longer worth it to be in the stands on opening day at Rogers Centre.

“It just kind of evolved into this 50,000-person St. Patrick’s party," Tilley told the Toronto Star. “The alcohol and the drunkenness is the focus over baseball.”  

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However, the head of Rogers Centre security, Mario Coutinho, reported that team officials have worked to limit fans’ drinking in recent years and that this reputation the opening game has garnered is no longer accurate. “I probably would say that was true maybe six or seven years ago, but over our last few years we’ve seen our overall ejections decline.” 

According to Coutinho, only about 30 people have been thrown out of the home opener in the last few years, compared to five times as many a decade ago. However, he would not provide exact numbers or any solid evidence of a decline in these kinds of incidents. 

He went on to say that the Jays worked with Toronto police and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario to enact policies that curtailed excessive drinking in Rogers Centre. Policies included limiting alcohol sales in the 500 level to one drink per person, not selling beer in the seating area in the 500 level, and hiring extra security. Coutinho expects that they will be able to drop those policies this year due to the fact that the amount of problems during the opening game has decreased. 

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Meaghan Gray, a spokeswoman for the Toronto Police, said that the police are aware of “rowdiness and/or public intoxication” at the Jays home opener, but it is not that different than any other sold-out Jays game at Rogers Centre.

She acknowledged, “Historically, that reputation may have been warranted, but we have seen an improvement over the last few years.” 

Still, many Jays fans disagree that significant improvements in the atmosphere of the opening game have been made. Kyle Schultz, a 42-year-old high school teacher, attended the home opener two years ago when a group of drunk young men showed up in the second inning and threatened to fight him. Security eventually intervened and removed the men from the stadium.

This isn’t the only issue that Schultz has experienced at Jays home openers. In the past, he has had beer spilled on him from the upper deck, saw teens smoke pot, and witnessed multiple fights.

According to Schultz, any enjoyment of the opening game is “outweighed by the idiocy.”

His 9-year-old son requested to go to the Jays opening game this year, but Schultz refused to take him. “It’s not an appropriate game for him at all.”  

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