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Going to the playoffs? Here's what you need to know

1 Unhappy that the American League East champion Tampa Bay Rays got two day games and the wild card New York Yankees are in prime time? Well, this won't help: Fans are advised to get to Tropicana Field early and be prepared to get home late. Today's first pitch is at 1:37 p.m. and Thursday's is at 2:37 p.m. That means both games should end around … rush hour.

2 Parking don'ts. Whatever you do, avoid metered lots. The meter maids will find you. The daytime start also means less street parking. Watch out for ne'er-do-wells, who have fooled fans into paying to park in tow lots they didn't own. City lots are easy to identify: white signs with a big blue "P." Police also will watch handicapped spots. Beyond the bad karma, the ticket carries a $258 fine.

3 Bring enough cash. Parking at the Trop itself will cost $20. Designated city lots won't be cheap, either. Cheaper alternatives: It costs $5 at the city's South Core garage via First Avenue S. The BayWalk garage on Second Street is $6. Don't fret the distance. Free shuttles will be available two hours before game time and an hour afterward. They run every five to 10 minutes.

4 Here's a dilemma: What if someone scored playoff tickets but couldn't get off work for a day game (thanks boss; you too, MLB.)? There's a way to sell your tickets downtown without risking a $138 fine. Don't sell them near the Trop or on stadium grounds. It's legal to sell tickets (for a profit now that Florida no longer has an anti-scalping law) north of First Avenue N and east of Eighth Street.

5 How can you buy playoff tickets without getting ripped off? "Most people won't know until they try to get into the gate," said St. Petersburg police Sgt. Kevin Smith. If it's not an official source (the Rays box office,, Ticketmaster and then it's buyer beware. Faking tickets isn't hard, thanks to technology. Watch out for altered tickets and who you buy them from. Some fans lost hundreds of dollars buying fakes in 2008.

6 Will anything at the Trop be different in this playoff series? Not really. The Rays and the city are treating the opening round like a Yankees or Red Sox series. Soda and beer will be $1 more, though. But hey: souvenir cups!

7 You can bring food as long as it's in small, clear plastic containers and your own bottled water as long as it's sealed. Inside, look out for Monstah Lobstah rolls, giant Cubans from Latin Stars and the steak and 'shrooms from Outback.

8 They stop selling beer after the seventh inning.

9 Kids getting antsy? Take them to feed the cownose rays in the tank by centerfield. Or check out the memorabilia at the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame.

10The big trend. In '08 it was blue Rayhawk haircuts. This year, fans lean toward blue plaid. Manager Joe Maddon made the team wear blue plaid "BRayser" jackets this season. The team shop has lots of plaid for sale, like a $33.99 fitted "BRayser" cap. Need an economical choice? Follow closer Rafael Soriano: he untucks his jersey after every save. It doesn't get more cost-effective than that.

Jamal Thalji, Times staff writer

Going to the playoffs? Here's what you need to know 10/05/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 6, 2010 7:23am]
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