Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Volunteering at the Ravens/Bengals Game 2016

Our church's youth group has a fun volunteering opportunity. Volunteers travel to M&T Bank Stadium to hand out game programs for some of the Baltimore Ravens football games. My wife volunteers with the youth group for their regular, at-church activities. She volunteered me for this activity, for which I am quite grateful.

I went this past weekend to the Ravens versus the Cincinnati Bengals 1 p.m. game. The group had to arrive by 10 a.m. to go in, get informed on what to do (and what not to do), and get to our stations for the gates opening at 11 a.m.

The sponsor's logo is much bigger than the teams!

Arriving that early at the stadium is an eye-opening experience. The neighborhoods near the stadium where the street parking is free on Sunday mornings were crowded by 9:30 with tailgaters. Some people were using the sidewalks to cook some brats and such. Celebrating can't start too early, I guess.

At the stadium, things were just getting busy outside. Other volunteers and employees were showing up. One beer tent was ready to serve!

No one was taking off at this flight deck at 9:45

Hospitality tents for VIP guests?

A lot of vendors were set up on the path between the Ravens' stadium and the Orioles' stadium. The vendors gave away freebies and sold stuff to the fans. I enjoyed a free coffee from Dunkin' Donuts (I usually don't drink coffee but the weather was in the 40s Fahrenheit) and a bag of chips from Utz. A mattress store had a "spin the wheel" giveaway but the only items they had on offer were a plush "Mr. Mattress" doll and a bunch of t-shirts. The shirts all had sayings like "I'm a superstar in bed." I wasn't interesting in getting either, so I didn't spin the wheel. A local grocery chain had their own wheel, offering cookies, breakfast biscuits, fruit snacks, and granola bars. I won a bag of cookies, which I smuggled into the stadium.

Ravens Walk just outside the main entrance to the stadium

After a quick visit to Ravens Walk, we got back to our gate, where volunteers enter.

Rendezvous at Gate A-1

We received badges and went through security before our training in a special room. The training was mostly "be positive and smile, make this a fun experience for the fans." The trainer said if there were any problems, we should refer them to one of the regular staff in a green coat. We were issued vests, hats (though there weren't enough hats in the room, I got mine later), and water bottles. Soon enough we were off to our gate just before 11 a.m.

We worked at Gate A and saw plenty of action from 11:45 up to 1:15.

Horrible lighting from inside the stadium

Myself, geared up and ready to go

As volunteer opportunities go, this job was fun. Most people were happy to receive programs. Some were surprised that they were free. Some wanted extras to share with friends and family. Some didn't want any at all. Some politely took the programs and later dropped them back in the box while our backs were turned! Kids loved getting something free. When the crowd got thick, we had to make some passes over and in between other patrons. People were always polite and happy to be there.

By the end of the first quarter of the game (around 1:30), they closed the gate. We stacked up the few boxes that remained and headed back to our secret room. We turned in our gear, got an extra bottle of free water and a free ticket to the game. The seats were good ones, too--lower deck, very close to the field.

Free ticket for volunteering

View from my seat

Playing on my end of the field

Seats that had the benefit of sunshine on the 50 degree day

The game went well, by which I mean the home team won without too much trouble. Some of the patrons nearby grumbled about referee calls that went against the Ravens. Otherwise the crowd was pleasant.

At half time, four junior teams came out for some quick playing. Two middle school girls' teams played flag football at one end of the stadium while two elementary school boys' teams played tackle at the other end.

Half time entertainment

Peewee football was at my end of the stadium

The weather was too cold to enjoy a cold beer. I bought a hot dog for lunch and snacked on chips and cookies from the Ravens Walk. I almost bought hot chocolate but couldn't stomach the five dollar price.

The whole experience was great and I'd do it again, though the church group doesn't have any more games on their schedule till next year. Here's hoping the Ravens make it into the playoffs!

Reading the program at home

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