It’s 1:10 am. Across the ocean over in London, 4,846 miles from the city of Houston, this means only one thing: game time. Whatever real-life stresses are going on – working full-time, battling to complete a master’s dissertation to deadline, being a father to a young son, and a husband to an amazingly understanding wife – from late March through to late October these are temporarily shifted to the periphery. This is when attention centers on one of the truest loves in my life, the Houston Astros. For the next 3-4 hours plus – if I can make it there conscious – my world is orange and navy blue, time to open MLB.TV and settle into the sounds of Todd Kalas, Geoff Blum, and Julia Morales. By the time a ballgame finishes, I’m likely looking at 3-4 hours’ sleep before waking up and getting ready to go to work.
It’s not easy, in fact doing it day after day it becomes punishing, yet I wouldn’t have it any other way – and such is the life of a baseball fan in the UK, where our numbers are constantly growing. I’m not a special case in that regard; however, it’s natural that Houstonians will have a number of questions: How did I get here? Why the Astros? How do you do it? Indeed – why do you do it?
I’ve been a Houston Astros fan for 20 years, since just before the start of the 2000 season, after being drawn to the club in the latter stages of the 1999 season. I had no connection to anywhere in the United States, nor had I ever been across the proverbial pond, so in choosing a team, I had no restrictions. As a cricketer, I loved watching Mike Hampton pitching (and hitting, for that matter) and the Astros, buoyed by their famous ‘Killer Bs,’ fit the bill of being an exciting team but not a bandwagon choice. Of course, Hampton moved to the New York Mets before the 2000 season had even started, but I stuck with the Astros, and I have never regretted it, being a fiercely proud fan of the team in the UK to this day.
As a British baseball fan, the challenging demands have always been immediately apparent in two regards – the time difference and the lack of media attention given to the sport. The second hurdle has been eroded over time, both by social media information effectively eliminating the trans-Atlantic distance and the availability of fantastic resources like MLB.TV; the trouble created by the time difference naturally remains a colossal barrier; however, to engaging with American sports.
We deal with it here in different ways; neither is right nor wrong. Some will seek to watch day games live and catch up with the action from night games via the terrific condensed highlights on MLB At-Bat the following morning without spoilers. Others will put ourselves through the grinder and attempt to catch as many ballgames as is humanly possible live at all hours of the day and try to retain our sanity. As I started, I’m in the latter group of maniacs.
How do we do this in the UK? Honestly, I’m not quite sure! There have been so many times where I’m battling falling asleep in the middle of the day either on the way to or from work – hell, sometimes even at work – that I wonder if I’ve brought on some sort of self-induced narcolepsy. Hey, don’t worry about me, though – if the Astros got that W the night before, I’m good. The other main reason that keeps me going is simple: connecting Astros fans across the world online.
This is where staying up through into the very early hours in support of the Astros becomes incredibly rewarding. In June 2017, I created the Astros-dedicated Twitter account @AstrosFansUK, to which I am enormously dedicated; there is a dual purpose to the account.
During ballgames, I provide enthusiastic, energetic, and somewhat frantic live text updates to Astros fans. These are replete with self-created graphical content in celebration of homers, individual players, and Astros wins, which range from the sublime to the ridiculous (check out the next time Yordan Alvarez goes deep…). Astros fans have really enjoyed engaging with this over the years, and this has fueled me to keep doing it for them.
Outside of the games, @AstrosFansUK takes on a different guise and is dedicated to connecting all fans of the Astros – here in the UK, across the US and even spreading over the whole globe. In addition to myself, there are now Astros-dedicated accounts in France, Brazil and Germany, plus individual fans scattered across the planet in regions as diverse as South Africa, New Zealand, and the Far East. My goal is to unearth every single Houston Astros fan in the UK and connect them; as it stands we are at 136 fans whom I am aware of. From @AstrosFansUK, I also run competition giveaways of Astros gear for the UK fans, and it brings me enormous pride to see friendships develop, and our support of our beloved baseball team goes from strength to strength.
Frustratingly, despite several other UK Astros fans having had wonderful experiences with you all, I am still waiting for my first trip to Houston after two decades. This is, however, looking like finally happening in 2021, so I will be crossing fingers, toes, and the rest that this actually happens. I sincerely cannot wait to get out to H-Town to make up for a severe amount of lost time and meet all of you fantastic people out there who I have ‘met’ online – bear with me!
On that note, I was truly honored as a non-Houstonian to be invited to become part of Apollo Sports Media and celebrate the under-represented sporting traditions of your great city. From London, all of 4,846 miles away across the ocean, you bet I will be giving my all in support of the city and this new movement of ours as we look to establish Houston’s name among the heavy-hitters of the sports world. All Houston. All original.