As the story goes, legendary USC baseball coach Rod Dedeaux used to buy a keg of beer before each home game and place it in the stands — along with some red cups — behind the visitors’ dugout, encouraging student attendance and helping them “loosen up” a bit before delivering their best heckles to that day’s opponent.
Regardless of amount of truth in that, what is true is this: Once upon a time, beer was sold to the public at USC baseball games. Over the last few years, beer has been available to select people in select areas. Slowly, year after year, that availability has expanded until it is now again accessible to all patrons of legal drinking age at USC baseball games.
“[Beer and baseball] just seem to go together,” said USC Director of Baseball Operations Marty Butterick, who spearheaded much of the process. “And there’s always been a lot of people requesting it.”
In 2010, USC baseball created a beer garden down behind the grandstand next to the Massman Theater. It was officially defined as a tailgate, complete with a six-foot fence and DPS officers.
“A lot of people told me it couldn’t be done,” Butterick said of those first tailgates.
Butterick checked with the campus events office to see if there was any reason that tailgates wouldn’t be allowed at sporting events other than football.
“That was the key question,” Butterick said. “If they were to come back and say, ‘No, you can only have them at football,’ that would have stopped it right there.”
While campus tailgating policies are generally applied to football and football only, there was no rule that said they couldn’t be applied elsewhere.
Meanwhile, clear across campus at the Galen Center, alcohol is served at USC basketball games in the Founders Room. So, baseball turned its Hall of Fame, the entrance to its offices, into a makeshift suite. In 2011, they hosted private parties during games, with alcohol strictly remaining inside the building.
In 2012, baseball was able to move those private parties to the roof of their offices, albeit on a very limited basis. While not inside like the Hall of Fame or the Founders Room, it is nonetheless a very defined and enclosed area.
Again, however, alcohol was prohibited from being brought into the main grandstands. Last season, baseball again held similar events on the roof, but their frequency increased dramatically.
“With each step, we were really careful to make sure there weren’t any issues,” Butterick said. “[That way] any people that might have concerns can see firsthand that maybe their concerns shouldn’t be as strong.”
Then came the big step: alcohol available to all of-age spectators at Dedeaux Field, beginning this season. Butterick credits Senior Associate Athletic Director Mark Jackson with helping him clear the final hurdle.
“[He] was an advocate for it,” Butterick said of Jackson. “Having someone at that level be behind it has really helped make that final push.”
The plan was initially to have another beer garden-type area this year, but, unlike in the past, it would be open to the public and have a view of the game. The bleachers down the right field line were considered a possibility, but Jackson helped convince both Athletic Department and university administration to try it out in the stadium as a whole.
Perhaps the key change, however, was the concession provider at USC baseball. For years, it was Aramark Sports and Entertainment, which still provides services for countless venues on campus, including the Galen Center.
This year, concessions at Dedeaux Field are provided by USC Hospitality, who are able to use their own campus liquor license, as they do at Traddies, and treat it as a regular catering event.
“I’m not sure if this could have happened if we had a different concessions provider,” Butterick said.
Regardless, it did. And now, beer and baseball are reunited.
Nick Burton is a senior majoring in broadcast and digital journalism. His column, “Any Given Saturday,” runs Thursdays, ironically. To comment on this story, visit dailytrojan.com or email Nick at firstname.lastname@example.org.