The calendar turns to September this week.
The Orioles are in the thick of the playoff hunt.
And no, your calendar does not read 1997.
The Orioles (69-57 entering Monday's game) are within five games in the American League East race, and are tied for the American League's second wild card spot.
The last time they were even this close was in '97—the Orioles' last playoff appearance following a season in which they led the American League East wire-to-wire.
It's hard to believe anyone would stay on as a season ticket-holder after all that time. After all those managers. After all the front office turnover. After all those nights when the ballpark was filled with Yankees and Red Sox fans.
The reward for those fans that held on, that didn't give up their season tickets while many more had already given up hope years earlier: it was in the mail.
Many received it late last week. More will receive it today.
The Orioles mailed out invoices for postseason tickets to their season ticket holders Thursday.
The front office has been preparing for the playoffs as the team is fighting for a chance to get there.
It's still not a sure thing. September has the makings of a very challenging month. There are five teams within five games in the wild card race, meaning this season could very well come down to the last day.
Even then, having thrilled fans unlike at any point since 1997, the Orioles may not make the playoffs.
Many ex-fans have waited to jump on the bandwagon, citing the obvious collapse that lay ahead.
"They would surely falter in late June," they'd say. They were wrong.
The Orioles have already surpassed last year's win total. Entering Monday, they're just 12 wins away from the magic No. 81—the wins required to finish with an even-.500 record. That's been the goal of many fans since the early 2000s.
So when they're on a trajectory to finish well beyond that goal—the random number that repetitive losing dictated to be a mile-marker on the road to success—then why is the bandwagon racing ahead without the volume of fans that used to cram Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Well—skepticism is now part of the fabric that makes up an Orioles fan. Hopelessly losing for the entire childhood of a generation will indeed rob you of a huge segment of your fan base.
But the mail that left Camden Yards Thursday was hope stuffed in an envelope for those desperate fans. It was a reward for those die-hards that held onto their season tickets.
If the Orioles make the postseason—even if it's just the one-game wild card playoff—you'll see those skeptics and die-hards come together. It'll be like nothing we've seen here in more than a decade.
The Ravens have made the playoffs eight times since 2000.
But if the Orioles are still in contention come the end of September, you'll see that Baltimore is still very much a baseball town under all of that purple camouflage.
Until then, there's hope.