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Beer sales will be limited at Blue Jays sold-out home opener

Blue Jays fan Santo Alberga watches the game against the Cleveland Indians in Toronto on April 8, 2012.

Michelle Siu for The Globe and Mail/michelle siu The Globe and Mail

Beer and the boys of summer go together – sometimes far too well. During Monday's home opener, the Toronto Blue Jays will restrict the flow of ale to the cheap seats.

Blue Jays officials say a customer can purchase only one beer at a time in the 500-level seats during Monday's sellout game, in one of the security measures intended to cut down on brawls in the upper decks.

An overly excitable fan base is the kind of problem that Toronto's other sports teams only wish they had this time of year. The NBA's Raptors and NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs will spend this spring on the sidelines, having again missed the playoffs. With the baseball and major league soccer seasons starting up, fans of live sports are turning to teams whose seasons are still full of promise.

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The 2012 Blue Jays are feeding early hopes they will emerge as a gritty contender in the American League East. They won two of their first three games in a series against the Cleveland Indians this weekend. They play their first home game Monday against the Boston Red Sox. Rogers Centre tickets sold out within an hour when first offered in February.

The Jays typically sell out every seat in the 50,000-seat stadium on opening day, double what they get most games. While the lower bowls draw a relatively genteel crowd, there have been recurring problems when the upper decks fill up.

Fights breaking out among drunken fans have led to nosebleeds in the nosebleeds during the past few season openers. Toronto Police say there will be a stepped-up security presence inside and outside of the Rogers Centre. "There will be additional officers to ensure public safety," said Constable Tony Vella.

And while most concession stands will keep their standard two-beers-per-customer rule, there "will be a limit of one beer per person per transaction on the 500 level," said Blue Jays spokesman Jay Stenhouse.

The Jays have travelled this road before. In the 2008 season, beer sales were eventually banned in the cheap seats during the club's $2-a-seat Tuesday promotion. Officials faulted the promotion for contributing to a "night club" mentality among young patrons, which at one point led to more than 100 ejections in a single game.

Most fans are more keen to focus on the successes on the field. The Jays are 2 and 1 this year, but could have had a perfect record.

On Sunday, Toronto was on the precipice of another comeback in Cleveland when slugger Jose Bautista popped out to end the game with the bases loaded in the ninth inning.

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In a downtown Toronto bar, sports fan Santo Alberga groaned as he watched Mr. Bautista fail to score a runner. But the 43-year-old labourer remained upbeat. "It's going to be a great series with Boston. Hopefully, we sweep Boston, start the season 5 and 1," he said.

Mr. Alberga said he's been so busy watching every second of the Jays games that he slept through the Maple Leafs-Montreal Canadiens game he had planned to watch on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday night.

But he wasn't too busted up about missing it. Gesturing with his Molson Canadian to the television showing the Jays game, he declared, "I want to go out and see a team that plays with heart – not like the Leafs."

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About the Author
National security reporter

Focusing on Canadian matters during the past decade, Colin Freeze has reported extensively on the interplay between government, police, spy services, and the judiciary. Colin has twice been to Afghanistan to be embedded with the Canadian military. More

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