PhilR8's sometimes but not always pre-game ritual

Every game is different, but after years of experience I think I've finally perfected my O's game-day ritual. Things change based on the day of the week and the time of game, but what you'll read below is an idealized version of how I spend my time before the game.

I like to arrive to the area early. Like, several hours early. In fact, if we're talking about a 7:05 gametime, I like to kick off work around 3pm and drive downtown.

My destination is the Horseshoe Casino. Parking is free and there's plenty of it - and it's always this way for O's games no matter what people tell you. O's playoff games in 2014? Parking was free and plentiful. Opening Day 2016? Free parking. Lots of it. Just trust me on this one.

It's a bit of a hike to OPACY from the casino - probably a brisk 10-15 minute walk depending on your inseam. But that's okay, because we make a few stops along the way.

First stop - the casino. I head straight to the Blackjack tables. I look for a sparsely-populated $25 table and sit down and toss $100 onto the felt. My plan here is to play a few quick hands and leave once I'm up $50. Ideally, that'll end up paying for my beer and food while at the game.

I started doing this late in the 2014 season and probably five-six times during the 2015 season. I've been very fortunate - I've never stood up from the blackjack table in the negative. In fact, if I tally up all of my winnings last season (which includes some post-game action where I let myself play a bit longer), I'm up over $1,000. Sure, it's not WW-level success and it won't last forever, but my strategy of a few quick hands before the game and some more laid-back sessions after the game has been berry berry good to me.

Next stop: GAME sports bar between the casino and M&T Bank Stadium. It's a pretty nice space with decent beers for decent prices. This is usually where I'll meet anyone with whom I'm attending the game - it's a favorite haunt for me and my buddy UH-60. It's a nice place to chill and get loose.

Next: the walk to OPACY. North on Warner Street, across the train tracks (which will seriously delay your plans if you get caught waiting for a train, since they seem like they're a mile long), and then it's time to play Frogger when crossing W Ostend Street just south of M&T Bank Stadium. Seriously, it's like a quarter-mile drag strip. Cross at your own risk. It's even hairier after the game when alcohol has been added to the mix.

Then it's a nice brisk walk around M&T Bank Stadium to the Ravens Walk. I usually pick up a sausage from a vendor here to satisfy any pre-game tummy rumblings and to save a few bucks compared to food inside the stadium. Then we walk down Ravens Walk, across the Baltimore Marathon Start/Finish line, and on to Oriole Park.

We queue up in the Bag Check line because if I'm attending with my wife, we've brought a giant bag full of food. The Orioles like to brag that they have one of the most liberal food policies in sports and we take full advantage of it. Essentially: no glass or metal bottles, no alcohol, and all beverages must be in clear bottles. Everything else goes. We actually like stopping by Whole Foods before the game and loading up on veggies, hummus, dips, bags of chips, and stuff from their hot/salad bar. Or we make sandwiches and bring fruit. Or we bring leftovers. We smile as we present our treasure chest of tasty treats to the bag checker and after he or she pokes around the bag with a stick, we're waved through to the promised land.

Now we're inside the stadium! It's probably still an hour until gametime at this point. First stop: beer vendor. Usually the Flying Dog kiosk, especially if it's Firkin Friday. Then perhaps a quick bathroom stop and then we make our way to our seats.

My buddy UH-60 introduced me to the wonderful world of the Drink Rail seat and I honestly don't think I can ever go back. Check 'em out:

Sections 268-280. Prices start in the low $30-range so I'd classify them as, uh, "modestly" priced, but certainly not cheap. But look at that section number - it starts with a two. That's right - these seats are on the Club Level. You present your tickets to the gatekeeper by the escalator and then you're whisked up to the promised land. Fully-enclosed, climate-controlled concourse with all kinds of bars and food vendors. There's literally a cart of cakes and cookies and sweets that is wheeled around. Let them eat cake, indeed! This is also home to the Flying Dog Orange Bar which can get pretty crowded, but lots of FD brews on tap.

We usually head straight to our seats, though - which, as I mentioned, are on the drink rail. If you don't know what that really means, check this out:

Drink Rail

Yep, looks awesome, doesn't it? A stool with a back with what amounts to a desktop in front of you! Not to mention ample elbow room on either side. And check out that view (although some seats are obstructed by the foul pole). Yes, truly the best seat in the house if you ask me.

And then we watch the game! But wait, what if the weather turns sour? Well, these seats are under the upper-deck overhang so you'll stay dry as a bone. What if the temperature drops? Retreat inside the club level for a drink!

Once the game ends, we shuffle out like everyone else and make the trek back to the casino parking garage. One some nights, we'll duck back into the casino for some gambling but on most nights it's straight home.

And that's my game-day experience. Thanks for reading.

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