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FEATURE: Pair of Longtime San Diego Padres Fans Keeping Fan Base Strong on Social Media

PADRES!: Erica @midgetbubz (left) and Laura @padresfangirl, seen here last month at the Peoria Sports Complex for a San Diego Padres spring training game, have become two of the most popular young and funny fans that are part of the Padres Twitter fandom. 

April 2, 2024

By Loren Kopff • @LorenKopff on X

Every college and professional team has at least one of them and it’s interesting to think how they would function had it not been for social media. They are called fan bases, a collection of the most die-hard fans of a specific team from all over the world.

Before Facebook came onto the social media scene in February, 2004 and Twitter (now X) in March, 2006, fans would have had to rely on flip phones in the mid-1990s or group gatherings at the games if they wanted to interact with each other and speak how they felt about their favorite teams, or their most disliked rival.

While group gatherings still happen, as in the case of the middle of the fourth inning scenes at Petco Park, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms have made that easier these days, especially for two out of several dozen who belong to the San Diego Padres Twitter fandom.

Laura, who can be found @padresfangirl, and Erica, who can be found @midgetbubz (they prefer not to use their last names) have been among the most popular of this group for only a brief time.

Both were born and raised in different parts of San Diego to parents who also had a strong interest in sports. Laura’s father is from Buffalo and her mother and grandmother grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and became fans of the Giants baseball team. When they moved to San Diego for Laura’s grandfather’s job, they switched from the orange and black of the Giants to the brown and gold of the Padres.

“Nobody chooses to be a Padres or a Buffalo Bills fan,” said Laura. “You’re just born into the pain.”
Erica hails from the East County area of San Diego and her father grew up in the north suburbs of Chicago until the age of 17. Upon arriving to America’s Finest City, he would become a Padres fan himself, a far cry from growing up as a Cubs fan.

When the Padres were still playing at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium/Qualcomm Stadium/San Diego County Credit Union Stadium, which has been since torn down, there was no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram or TikTok.

“I grew up there,” said Laura. “Some of my first memories were at Qualcomm; the Murph, when I was a kid. I loved it, but I don’t think most people knew who the Padres were on an actual scale or cared. To me, they were life. I have pictures running the bases [after selected games] and everything and loved it. I was fortunate enough to grow up with the [Trevor] Hoffman’s, the Tony Gwynn’s, the [Ken] Caminiti’s. So that’s where I got my love of baseball from.”

It’s hard to believe that Erica and Laura have been friends for only three years, even though they’ve been lifelong fans of the Padres. They never met when the Padres were playing in their old digs and in fact, this season is the 20th anniversary of Petco Park. They did not join Twitter until 2020 during the Covid outbreak when they were bored and looking for something to do.

“It’s funny because we knew each other, but we didn’t become close until [podcasters] Dave [Palet] and Jeff [Dotseth] were like, ‘hey, let’s get you on our podcast’,” said Erica. “And then Jeff said, ‘hey, this girl is really funny’. I asked, ‘are you sure’?”

Dotseth and Palet are longtime former radio personalities who, like most in their profession, have lost their radio jobs in the San Diego market. They most recently worked for the defunct XX 1090 before starting up their own podcast in January of 2017, which has become a popular fixture in America’s Finest City.

One day, members of one of the group chats Erica was in suggested that she should infiltrate Dotseth’s and Palet’s fantasy football league because she was considered as one of the unsuspecting characters. After being ignored by them, Erica called them out on it. Then a few months later, they invited her on their show, but needed someone else. That’s where Dotseth sent Erica one of her best friends today, Laura. Ironically, Palet is a Dodgers fan and originally, Laura wasn’t too sure about going on podcast.

“I had Dave blocked,” said Laura. “I used to get [into] fights with Dave a lot on Twitter; I did not like him at all. So when [Erica] said you’re going to have to come and he’s going to be there, I was nervous about it. I was terrified the first five minutes of the episode. He’s completely different in person.”

“He said this girl is really funny; she has all these hilarious puns,” recalled Erica. “I said, ‘I don’t know about her, but okay, I’ll send her this weird message’.”

At the request of her sister, Erica recalls not getting onto Facebook until 2009, which was towards the end of her Valhalla High School days but didn’t really post much. She got onto Twitter a few years later while she was bored helping her father at work.

“But it was never really used for sports,” recalls Erica. “I used it as my diary, which I still do to this day.”

Erica remembers she and her father would see the Padres every week because she would get free tickets from her elementary school, which got them from nearby Sycuan Casino. Erica would always win the free tickets because she had to be bribed to take her medication.

Laura’s mother and grandmother were season ticket holders and recalls that there were years where you couldn’t give away Padres tickets for free. Laura remembers her first Padres game was probably in 1997.

“If you couldn’t go one night, nobody would even take them because they were so awful,” said Laura.

Back in the earlier days of Padres Twitter, and to this day, there would what was, and still is, a Fourth Inning meetup behind home plate where group photos would take place. That’s where Laura really started to meet a lot of people and build connections there. Erica and Laura joked about how they probably met each other there but didn’t know it. Although, they remember meeting at Dave’s garage for one of the podcasts, it was at that recording that they met for the first time in person.

Laura’s first experience with Padres Twitter came when one of her best friends since middle school was telling her that her humor ‘matches up pretty well’. At that time, many knew the Padres weren’t the most popular of teams, but the fans were still having a blast tweeting about anything relating to them.

“I didn’t even have a Twitter account,” she recalled. “He would send me the tweets sometimes of when we would lose and just say the funniest things of like how we would burn our own team and make fun of ourselves. So I had just gotten just bored enough during Covid…I made an account and just started following and post really stupid stuff. It was like what Erica said, whatever comes to your mind. I started making connections and meeting other people through it.”

“My first experience with Padres Twitter was actually through [Los Angeles] Dodgers Twitter,” said Erica. “What had happened was during Covid, I made a Halloween costume making fun of us for losing to the Dodgers as badly as we did in the National League Division Series. I thought it was hilarious, but then all these Dodgers fans kept coming into my mention. That’s how Padres Twitter kind of came about.”

The more Erica would tell the Dodgers fans on Twitter, who she thought were annoying, to leave her alone, the more Padres fans would show up on her timeline. That’s when she found out that there were more fans than her.

Laura recalls that the Dodgers fans would go after her hard but as funny as it sounds, she’s now friends with some of those fans. As she kindly put it, ‘social media is weird’.

As an avid baseball fan, Erica even submitted a lengthy piece to the blog ‘9 Inning Know It All’ last February titled, ‘What Baseball Means to Me’. She stated that she’s in the works of another article. The creator of the blog reached out to Erica and asked her if she would be interested in writing something for the blog. At first, she was hesitant because she was too busy. But, the English major, who loves to write, finally decided to write the piece for fun.

“It blew up more than I thought it would,” said Erica. “It was a lot of fun to write.”

“For me, I think it’s interesting [that] a lot of people, and I’m sure Erica gets this a lot too, will say, ‘I thought you were going to be so different when I met you in person’,” said Laura. “Erica has a certain personality that comes through on social media where…I don’t know if people see her for having the heart that she does and the sense of life that she does just being how well-spoken she can be. I think they just see it more like, oh, there’s this young, blonde girl online who makes funny comments and whatever, and doesn’t really see the depth beyond that. So, I think for her to be able to show herself in a different way was really good.”

Unfortunately, there is a dark to social media where people can turn a positive into a negative. While it’s not uncommon for people to bash another team, or in this case, Padres fans talking trash about the Dodgers and vice versa, the line is severely crossed when extremely hurtful things can be said about person’s character and his/her life or family. Erica and Laura have seen that a lot on Twitter.

“I think there are two types of trolls,” said Laura. “Those who go after your opinion and those who go after your character. The banter and trolling with opinion is entertaining. When it’s an opinion, it can be fun to challenge. When it’s the personal or character side, that’s where it’s hard. I can’t honestly say I’m the best at figuring out how to navigate it. I am better, for sure, but it can be hard to separate.

“That’s where the friendships like Erica and family keep me centered when it’s been hard,” she continued. “You have to be good at grounding yourself and have confidence in who you are. Most people assume, make judgements, and think they know who you are based on minimal interaction or them reading a few sentences and interpreting what you’re saying through their own lens. I would say there have been a lot of really, really, really beautiful things that have come out of Twitter.”

Erica recently graduated with her Master’s and just started her doctorate, which she proudly posted on Twitter. She laughed when she confirmed that she’ll be Dr. Erica regardless of what people on Twitter say.

“But I’ve met a lot of wonderful, beautiful people on Twitter, and I’ve also had the experience of having the opposite of that,” said Erica. “But I ignore a lot of it. I recently had to address it because there were some people who were pretending to be my friend. There was just no way around it, but those people know that they are no longer in my life, and they are no longer a priority for me.”

It’s not uncommon for Erica and Laura to put out dozens of tweets every day, not just during the baseball season, but throughout the year. Whether its describing the road trips they are taking to Peoria, AZ for Spring Training, or their times at Sofi Stadium for a Buffalo Bills-Los Angeles Chargers game, or even their work travels on the airplane, they have become among the most popular young women who are a part of Padres Twitter.

If you’re wondering if they go to all 82 home games at Petco Park, they don’t. Laura has a 20-game package because of her work, in which she travels a lot. But with that, you also get discounts on additional tickets. She’s also able to trade or buy with others who are part of the Padre Faithful. When it’s all said and done, Laura goes to more than half the home games, and some at Chase Field in downtown Phoenix when the Friars play the Arizona Diamondbacks.

To really know Erica and Laura, you have had to have known them for as long as they’ve known each other. What you see on social media doesn’t tell the true story about their friendship. Laura, who constantly changes her Twitter handle, claims that despite what others may say, or joke about, she and Erica are not judgmental towards each other based off some of the stuff they post.

“We’ll call each other out, which is something that is very rare in a friendship,” said Laura. “She’ll call me out, which she did last night about something and said, ‘I probably shouldn’t have done that, but I still love you anyway’. We can be really honest, and it’s a safe place where it’s like that person will still have your back.”

It’s hard to tell where Erica would be without her friendship with Laura. They laughed at each other when she said Laura is ‘kind of a pain in the ass’ and Laura responded with a, ‘that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me’. But all joking aside, Erica commented that Laura is an amazing support system and feels she would be alone without her.

“Overall, about Twitter and the experience on it, it’s such a unique thing to have that close of a connection to the players and the organization and what’s going on,” said Laura. “Granted, Twitter hasn’t been around for that long, and I’ve only been a part of it for three years, which some people say you’ve only been a fan for three years. For me, I can’t even imagine being in the shoes of a player or having to be a sports organization where we are because you used to have that buffer and that separation. And now, fans have that direct access to tagging you and things and saying whatever they want.”

“I think that is very interesting,” said Erica. “You have this access to them that was never available before social media, and I don’t always think it’s right that we have that access to them because they’re their own private person, too.”