There are thousands of users at astros.com; each one of them uses it to his or her convenience. Plenty of people share their feelings about he team; that’s what message boards are for. Some of them go beyond that, and join in groups, attending games together.
Shannon LaFon is a Houston resident and Astros lover, since the day her boyfriend took her to Minute Maid Park, without her being convinced of the sport and its entertainment value. She liked the experience so much that she became a fanatic. "I believe it was the excitement and the fact that everything might change in a second", LaFon says about what interested her the most about baseball. "You’re watching a ballgame and in a fraction of a second the outlook changes. That took my heart and didn’t let me go".
She got herself so interested on the Astros and her favorite player, Lance Berkman, that she started to know about baseball to the point "my boyfriend brags about me knowing more about baseball than he does". In one of her many visits to astros.com, she started joking with other female users about the team’s need for cheerleaders.
And that was how an idea came up: a group of girls goes to Astros game together at least once per home stand; and the interesting thing is to see not just women talking about baseball and rooting for a particular team; but the fact they come from so many different backgrounds and professions;
from office clerks to law enforcement personnel.
"I watch the baseball soap opera unfolding in every game", says Katie Glade, Account representative for a financial services company. She’s a Brad Lidge fan, that’s how she took the nickname of Lidgebabe. Each one of them is identified with the last name of her favorite player. They wear t-shirts that identify them as group members.
"My parents are from Waco", tells Lydia Moreno, "But when I was 6, my grandfather moved the whole family to Monterrey, Mexico. Mom came back to Texas as soon as she could. (…) My mother is the reason why I’m such a huge sports fan; she’s always been a big Astros fan; but I got hooked when my sister’s boyfriend got me an extra ticket and took me with them to the Astrodome in 1966".
Lydia even got out of work early one day in 1986 so she could see Mike Scott pitch a no-hitter in that year’s NLCS. She joined the group the same way everyone else did: by visiting the astros.com message boards.
The message was also picked up by Melanie Morris, a "domestic engineer", as she calls herself. She fell in love with baseball when she had to live with her father his life’s final year, back in 2001. "I asked him how he could love such a boring sport; he replied that if you loved it, it wasn’t boring at all. Then I got curious enough to follow it, and look at me now, I got hooked".
His father was a mad Astros fan, so it was only fitting she started following that same team.
The Astros babes group has caught the attention of more people each time, appearing in Astros Telecasts through FSN Houston; becoming a sort of friendly counterpart to yet another fan group, formed by males specifically, who follow each start by Roy Oswalt almost religiously: the O’s Bros.
If you ask them how their experience as a group has been so far, the answer is unanimous: "It’s been the best", Morris says. "Now I have friends to go to games with". "Definitely I’m going to more Astros games", says Patsy Rawls, who works as a buyer for a service company in Houston. The group bases in three simple rules with a defined objective: Be a female, love the Astros and be willing to have fun.
They also want to break the stereotype of the so-called groupie who only goes to a ballgame to look at players physiques. Well, it isn’t that they don’t do it, but it isn’t the main reason to go to a game. "We have Cardinal fans following our model back in St. Louis", says LaFon. "There are plenty of girls that have come to us and tell us they identify themselves with us". "The stereotypes are being broken, and there’s plenty more to do yet. When guys realize I’m a baseball fan they start to quiz me in order to see if it’s true. And many of them get amazed. Yes, I am a woman, and yes, I am a baseball fan".
No one can dare to say otherwise.