M's could be 14th major-league team to ban liquor

SEATTLE -- The Mariners are the only Seattle professional sports team to allow alcohol at work. But that may soon change.

The team recently eliminated drinking on some team flights and is reviewing other alcohol policies for players. The Mariners, like many-major league teams, permit alcohol inside clubhouses after games -- for now. But they recently banned alcohol consumption on inbound team flights once their plane is within three hours of Seattle.

The Seahawks follow the NFL's rule: No alcohol in any team circumstance. Teams can't even have a champagne shower to celebrate winning the Super Bowl.

The SuperSonics and their sister team, the WNBA's Storm, have the same policy: No alcohol surrounding any team function, including in the locker room after games. The Sonics are one of at least 14 NBA teams than ban alcohol in the locker room.

Team-sanctioned alcohol has come under national scrutiny in the wake of St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock's recent alcohol-related death. Police in St. Louis said Hancock was legally drunk at the time of his fatal automobile crash about six hours after he left Busch Stadium, though no one has suggested he drank in the clubhouse before he left it.

At least 13 major-league teams now prohibit beer and other alcoholic beverages from being consumed in the clubhouse, some since Hancock died after colliding with a parked tow truck.

Mariners general manager Bill Bavasi is considering whether to become the 14th team. Currently, alcohol is permitted in both the home and visiting clubhouses at Safeco Field. Players occasionally drink beer after games at their lockers -- though that sight may become more rare or at least less noticeable following Hancock's death.

Bavasi said he looks at the policy each offseason "to keep tabs on it."

"Obviously, we are taking an even harder look now," he said.

Team spokesman Tim Hevly said the change in the alcohol policy on team flights was agreed to during a preseason meeting between Bavasi and veteran Mariners players but had not been instituted until last week. Alcohol is now prohibited on any Mariners flight to Seattle of less than three hours.

The Padres made a similar change last week, prohibiting alcohol from being served on the final two hours of team charter flights inbound to San Diego. Team chief executive officer Sandy Alderson also decided to limit, but not eliminate, the amount of alcohol available in the Padres' clubhouse.

Sonics team spokesman Tom Savage said, "We have a no-alcohol policy."

He said Sonics players are made aware of the policy through a statement in team handbooks that each player receives before the season. That statement reads: "No alcoholic beverages may be consumed at any time during the twenty-four [24] hours prior to any team activity, such as a game, practice or meeting."

The Sonics prohibit alcohol consumption at all times aboard the team plane. Their policy also states that "in the event that it is determined that a player's blood alcohol level exceeds or has exceeded the level which is set by the State of Washington as the standard for DWI, such event shall constitute a violation of team rules without regard to whether the player was driving an automobile at the time such level existed in his bloodstream."

Storm spokeswoman Jennifer Carroll said her team follows the same policy as the Sonics.

Unlike their football and basketball counterparts, baseball players spend the majority of their game days inside the clubhouse, arriving as early as 2 p.m. to prepare for batting practice and other duties before a 7 p.m. game. They often don't leave until after 11 p.m. They watch movies there and have dinners -- some with beer -- after games there.

Not surprisingly, players don't want outside policing of what amounts to their second homes from April to October.

"To be honest, I think it's us as human beings who should decide what is good and bad for us. When and where to [drink]. We should police ourselves," said Mariners designated hitter Jose Vidro, a veteran of 11 seasons in the major leagues.

Vidro said he and fellow Mariners were saddened by Hancock's death.

"Man, we've got such a beautiful life. We've got such a beautiful job," said Vidro, who is earning $7.5 million this season.