ST. LOUIS – A big break with tradition for the Cardinals begins Monday night at Busch Stadium.
It’s been an unofficial “Cardinal” rule for as long as most fans can remember: weeknight home games start at 7:15 p.m. But on Monday, April 8, the start of the Cardinals-Dodgers game was changed to 6:45 p.m.
Flashback to September 10, 2018. The Cardinals were in a late-season playoff push. They came back to beat the Pirates on an eighth-inning homer. It was a Monday night; a school night. That homer came after 9:30 p.m. Most younger fans missed it.
This September, those moments will come 30 minutes earlier.
“Hopefully, fans will be able to stay a little longer during the games. Maybe some folks won’t see the first inning but they’ll be able to see the seventh or eighth inning,” said Cardinals Sr. Vice President Dan Farrell.
The team is pushing up game times by 30 minutes for 16 school night home games: Monday through Thursday nights in April, through mid-May, in late August and September.
There were two thumbs up for that plan from Cardinal fans Jamel Lacy and son, 3-year-old Grayson. Maybe the little guy can last beyond the sixth inning now and not be wiped out the next day.
“The earlier the better, you know? Especially if you’re taking kids. They’ve got to get home, get to bed; on school nights, definitely,” Lacy said.
“From a school perspective we love it,” said Joe Hawkinson, the principal at Pierremont Elementary in the Parkway School District.
He’s used to seeing little fans coming to school with a bit of a baseball hangover in the Spring and Fall.
“You hear from them that their plans are to go to the game the night before. You do see them dragging the next day a little bit,” he said. “We talk about it all the time. We have ‘Cardinal days’ here. It’s a big deal. The kids love it. They love to go. Anything that allows them to get down there and be part of something special and still be able to get up and come to school the next day makes us happy.”
Earlier start times are a trend in Major League Baseball.
“We’ve done a lot of research with our fans and during what we consider the school months … fans were preferring an earlier start time,” Farrell said.
Cardinals officials have been looking into it for at least the past seasons, Farrell said.
One possible downside: moms and dads may have to leave work early to get kids to the game on time but we’re talking Cardinal baseball in St. Louis, so that may actually be an upside, too.
The 7:15 p.m. weeknight start times return May 21 and run through June, July, and early August. The 6:45 p.m. scheduled game times will return August 19.