BALTIMORE'S a great place to visit, but sometimes it's hell to get there from Washington, especially when you're trying to make it to an Orioles game after work and have to fight your way through the tail end of rush hour.
Well, life's a lot easier lately for Federal City's Orioles fans: When the Os are playing a game you just gotta see, chances are you can just get on an Orioles bus that'll take you straight to the stadium while you relax.
The Orioles' busing program began this year in response to heavy fan demand, said Stacy Mass, manager of the Orioles store on 17th Street NW.
One of those demanding fans was Chris Lamb, 26, a contracts administrator for the American Red Cross. Lamb was getting discouraged about driving to Memorial Stadium after a series of disasters such as the night in May when he and some friends left town at 6 for a 7:30 game and didn't get to their seats until 9:30.
"It was already the sixth inning and afterwards we ran into another traffic jam and didn't get home until 1:30," he said. "Fred Lynn hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth and that was the only thing that made the trip worthwhile."
Now Lamb takes the bus. The Os schedule buses for all Eastern Division games and all weekend games, plus others according to fan interest. There are six stops operating under various schedules (see below).
The buses are clean and have toilets, and usually arrive at the stadium in plenty of time for passengers to get drinks and hot dogs (not to mention tickets).
"You get there on time," Lamb said. "And after the game, you might be tired or maybe you've had a few beers and you can sleep on the way back."
Rowdier rides are available. A number of Washington watering holes offer package deals ($15 up) that include bus fare, beverages and a ticket, usually for the upper reserved seats. "It's a festive atmosphere," said Patrick Reilly, manager of Danker's bar and restaurant in Southwest. "On the way back you have singalongs and people play baseball trivia."
It's a break-even deal for the restaurants, they say, with the benefit coming from goodwill and, Reilly says, "the crowds that come in before and after the games." BALTIMORE BY BUS
Buses leave from the Orioles store at Farragut Square two hours before game time on weekdays only; four other stops operate weekdays and weekends; the sixth stop is weekends only. Round-trip fare is $7 to $10, depending on which stop you leave from. Reservations must be made, but it can be done by phone and usually even on the day of the game. During the week, call the Orioles store at 347-2525. On weekends, call Eyre Bus Service at 854- 6600.
ORIOLES BUS STOPS
ORIOLES STORE -- 914 17th Street NW. 347-2525. $9.
COLUMBIA -- At K & M Building. $7.
SILVER SPRING METRO STATION -- Colesville Rd. & East-West Highway. $8
WHITE OAK SHOPPING CENTER -- Behind Sears. $8.
BURTONSVILLE SHOPPING CENTER -- Intersection of 198 & Rte. 29. $7.
TYSONS CORNER -- At the K mart on Leesburg Pike. $10. (Saturday and Sunday games only).
BUSES FOR UPCOMING GAMES
FRIDAY -- Chicago White Sox
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SUNDAY -- Chicago White Sox.
JULY 21 -- Kansas City Royals.
JULY 29, 30, 31, AUG. 1 -- Toronto Blue Jays.
AUGUST 16 -- Texas Rangers.
BUS, BEVERAGE & TICKET
The following trips are sponsored by area watering holes. Nearly all trips are limited to under 50 passengers. Make reservations early.
BOTTOM LINE -- 1716 I Street NW. 298-8488. $16. July 31, Blue Jays; August 2, Boston.
BULLFEATHERS/Capitol Hill -- 410 First Street SE. 543-5005. $18. Next trip is July 31, Blue Jays.
BULLFEATHERS/Alexandria -- 112 King Street, Old Town. 836-8088. $19. July 30, Blue Jays; October 2, Boston.
CHADWICKS/Georgetown -- 3205 K Street NW. 333- 2565. $15. July 30, Blue Jays; Friday, September 6. (May add August game).
DANKER'S -- 525 School Street SW. 554-7856. $15. September 20, Yankees. RHIANNON'S -- 8430-B Old Keene Mill Road, Springfield. 644-4222. $25 (includes Sunday brunch). July 21, Royals.
SIGN OF THE WHALE -- 1825 M Street NW. 223-4152. $15-$20. (Scheduling Monday night game in August).
RASCAL'S SALOON -- Rte. 925 & Central Avenue, Waldorf. 301/645-8044. $15. Still scheduling weekend game in August.
AMENDMENT -- 2131 Pennsylvania Ave NW. 223- 2077. $15. July 30, Blue Jays. Scheduling game in September.
REMINGTON'S -- 11500 Baltimore Blvd., Beltsville. 937- 6809. $18. This Saturday, Chicago White Sox. Trips planned for August and September.
TINO'S -- 1901 North Fort Myer Drive, Arlington. 524- 2512. $20. Planning trip for August 17.