You know you're a hard-core Giants fan when you shop for Giants T-shirts while you're wearing Giants T-shirts.
You know you're a Giants fan when you travel to AT&T Park for the ambience, not the game.
And you know you're a Giants fan when your son vows to grow his hair back to Tim Lincecum length.
Meet the Hernandez family of Delhi husband Martin, wife Cathy and son Marty. Their home is decorated with a fleece Giants blanket and other banners. When they shop, they seek only the latest Giants gear because they already possess the rest.
They've been cheering a lot lately.
"We had a picnic outside McCovey Cove at the 2010 World Series," Cathy Hernandez said. "We pulled Marty out of school, took BART over and laid down a blanket. We had sandwiches and a radio, and we could see the scoreboard and hear the roar of the crowd."
Who needs tickets when you bring that kind of passion? The Hernandezes quickly returned home Wednesday night and watched Pablo Sandoval crush a record-setting three home runs in an 8-3 Giants victory.
As one might guess, the Giants' fan base is living another October fantasy. Its heroes have reached their second World Series in the past three years.
The 2010 World Series title would have been enough for a franchise that had not flown a championship flag since 1954. But after a dramatic postseason run that saw the Giants win six straight elimination games, they've positioned themselves for more glory.
Giants Nation is buying up all gear colored orange and black. The Sports Station store at Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto once again has become a gathering place for fans seeking Giants umbrellas, flags, license plates, towels, sports bottles, gloves and necklaces.
Jerseys bearing the No. 55 of Lincecum, the 18 of Matt Cain, the 75 of Barry Zito, the 28 of Buster Posey and others are there. And so are the fans, the nerve center for a baseball team hotter than sidewalks in July.
The Hernandezes figured something special was happening when they witnessed in the park, this time Cain's perfect game June 13.
"A lucky day for us," Martin said.
Fans adore not only the Giants, they love their jewel box of a ballpark at Third and King. They'll create excuses just to be in the neighborhood (see the Hernandez trio).
The Giants changed the course of their franchise by building that privately funded venue on the water. Since AT&T's opening in 2000, the Giants have:
1. Won three National League pennants.
2. Won it all in 2010.
3. Became ground zero for Barry Bonds.
4. Opened their gates this year for another Fall Classic.
That's a lot of action for one cozy ballyard in barely a decade.
Better still, it's filled virtually every game April through October by fans who can't wait to return.
Ben Arroyo of Patterson and his wife, Candy, among many Giants fans checking out the merchandise at the Sports Station before Game 1, will attend Game 2 tonight. The last time they were there, they saluted the Giants' clutch win Sunday night over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series.
"It's how they come back," Ben Arroyo said. "I think they have a good chance to win it."
No doubt in agreement with him is Terry Souza of Ripon. She and her 22-year-old daughter, Amy, also watched one of the Giants' victories over the Cardinals.
"She (Amy) didn't care how much she had to pay for those tickets. We were going," Terry Souza said. "When you're in that ballpark, you feel like it's family."
Giants fans connected two years ago with their "Band of Misfits." This season, it's another rough-around-the-edges cast of players Sandoval, Marco Scutaro, Hunter Pence, Angel Pagan and many others.
There is one difference maker, however, who has escorted the Giants to the top. Catcher Buster Posey has that Derek Jeter look about him soft-spoken but savvy and tough to beat. It's no coincidence that since the day he arrived in San Francisco, the Giants moved into baseball's elite class.
He's one of the many reasons why Modesto's Jimmy Cuevas hunted for Giants shirts Wednesday. How can you not relate to a team that entertains almost beyond reason?
"They don't give up," Cuevas said. "I think they're amazing."
Join the crowd.
Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2302.