Just as it did back in the days of Johnny U. and the old Colts, Westminster is starting to feel like home for Ray Lewis and Co. This will be the 13th summer for the Ravens, compared with 21 years for their pro football predecessors. Here are a few ideas for those planning on making the purple-and-black pilgrimage to McDaniel College.
AT CAMP: MCDANIEL COLLEGE
With morning practice starting 30 minutes later under new coach John Harbaugh than it did under Brian Billick - 8:45 as opposed to 8:15 - Ravens fans can sleep a little longer. But those who hit the snooze button might lose out on the good parking spots and, more importantly, the good seats under seven different tented bleacher areas. According to Bob Eller, the team's director of operations, the best place to park is at Bair Stadium (off Main Street) as well as overflow lots on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Proper hats and lightweight clothing are particularly important when practices are moved into Bair Stadium, which doesn't have the shaded and tented areas of the outside practice field.
Sunscreen is a must, too, as are liquids, but not of the alcoholic variety, as they are banned. All Ravens practices are free to the public.
LISTEN UP, RAVENS ROOKIES
We're not talking to you, Joe Flacco, and the other first-year players who'll converge on McDaniel. This is for all of those kids 14 and under who will congregate behind the end zone closest to the field house for post-session autographs. No proof of age is required, but players are pretty good at telling who the impostors are. Having a marker ready for the players to use when they sign is also helpful.
SIGN OF THE TIMES
The art of autograph-collecting has certainly changed since the days when the Colts trained in Westminster. Because the Ravens stay at a nearby hotel that is off-limits to the public - don't try to dress up as waiter, a la Owen Wilson in Wedding Crashers, it won't work - you might just put on your favorite Ravens jersey and be as close to the field as possible. In this day and age, addressing a player by name only once rather than nine times seems to stick out in a positive way.
YOU CAN'T TELL A HEAD COACH BY THE FLIP CARD
Though all the players' names, along with their heights and weights, will be available on the flip card the team gives out at each practice, picking out Harbaugh might be a little more difficult. During minicamps in Owings Mills, he was sort of like the "Where's Waldo" character, trying to blend into the landscape. It might be a little easier now that Harbaugh has made a few more appearances around town.
There's definitely a rhythm to the morning workouts, starting with the stretching and calisthenics, then the individual drills, the seven-on-seven drills, and finally the team (11-on-11) drills. The afternoon session has a much more frenetic pace because it's more condensed and often devoted to special teams. Harbaugh promises there will be a lot more hitting this year than in the past, so be prepared.
IN TOWN: WESTMINSTER
In the opinion of some locals, Westminster is not a bad eating town. There's enough variety in the types of cuisine and levels of dining to keep most satisfied.
Some of the favorite haunts include:
1.) Baugher's (1236 Baugher Road, off Main Street and New Windsor Road) has been around since 1948, and a photo of Ed and Romaine Baugher adorns the wall behind the cash register. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the adjoining nursery and farm are great for buying flowers and picking fresh fruit.
2.) Plum Crazy Diner (15 Baltimore Blvd.) serves hearty food in a motif Ravens fans are sure to love - purple.
3.) The Pour House (233 E. Main St.) lives up to its billing for those in need of a good cup of coffee, even on a 90-degree day.
4.) Harry's Main Street Grille (65 W. Main St.) has been feeding Baltimore football fans -and players - for years.
5.) Johansson's (233 E. Main St.) could be the top place in town for dinner, especially for its crab cakes, but owner Dave Johansson isn't a culinary snob, as evidenced by the fact that he also owns the nearby
6.) O'Lordan's Irish Pub (14 Liberty St.), where you can feast on 12 different kinds of whiskeys, and nearly 20 different drafts.
A QUICK NINE
When you're packing the trunk for a day at McDaniel, you might want to take your golf clubs. The McDaniel College Golf Club is a nine-hole course that plays just over 2,000 yards, perfect for young players just learning the game and old players who want to feel young again. It's also as cheap as hitting a large bucket of balls at most ranges, at $10 for walkers ($8 for juniors). You don't need a tee time.
GETTING SOME CULTURE
At the end of long, hot day watching football players grunt, sweat and hit, the perfect way to unwind could be watching some local thespians sing, dance and act. The Theatre on the Hill can be found inside Alumni Hall, where during training camp there will be performances of Into The Woods on Friday and Saturday and Aug. 1-2. There's even a tripleheader Saturday, starting with a 1:30 p.m. matinee of a children's show called Anansi - Tales of the Trickster Spider; followed by Into the Woods at 7:30 and All That Jazz at 10:15.
For more information, call 410-857-2448.
AND SOME OTHER STUFF...
Tomorrow through Saturday: Mount Airy Fire Company Carnival 1008 Twin Arch Road. (Route 27 and Twin Arch Road), Mount Airy; 6-11 p.m. Rides, food, games and entertainment. For more information contact Terry Baker at 301-829-0100, ext. 63; Friday: Sykesville Concerts in the Park, Millard Cooper Park, Cooper Drive, Sykesville, 7-9 p.m. Free outdoor concert. Playground and snack bar. For more information, contact Ivy Wells at 410-707-4441; Saturday, Downtown Westminster Farmers Market, Conaway Parking Lot, Railroad Ave. (Route 27) & Emerald Hill Lane, Westminster, 8 a.m. to noon. A "Producers Only" market of farm-fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods, plants and honey. Organic products are also available. For more information, call 410-848-5294; Saturday, Carroll County Summer Farmers Market "4-H Fair Week" featuring local produce, crafts, baked goods and jams, Agricultural Center, 700 Agriculture Center Dr., Westminster, 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Contact: Anita Bullock 410-848-7748; 9.) Saturday through Aug. 1, Carroll County 4-H/FFA Fair, Agriculture Center, 700 Agriculture Center Dr., Westminster, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Showcase of 4-H/FFA project exhibits. Home-style cooking, cake auction, 4-H/FFA livestock sale and entertainment. For more information, call 410-848-3247.
DID YOU KNOW?
The 1997 movie For Richer or Poorer" was filmed in Westminster. It didn't star Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs and wasn't about two veterans seeking fame and plenty of fortune, but Tim Allen and Kirstie Alley. Westminster was also the site of the first Rural Free Delivery (RFD) postal service later made famous in the fictional North Carolina town of Mayberry.