The World Series starts Friday night, and this year the Houston Astros head into Game 1 undefeated in the playoffs. You might think every New Brunswicker is either a Blue Jays or a Red Sox fan (with maybe a few Yankees fans sprinkled in), but there is a lonely Astros fan among us.
Fredericton musician Jamie Guitar grew up in the 1970s and '80s watching baseball with his grandfather.
In those days there were no 24-hour sports channels, and they would watch This Week In Baseball with host Mel Allen. His grandfather was a Boston fan, but the uniforms the Houston Astros wore got Guitar's attention.
"I think it was the rainbow jerseys that must have caught my eye. I was an artistic kid."
WATCH | See the memorabilia collection of Houston Astros super-fan:
The first Astros games he remembers were during the 1980 National League Championship Series, when four of the games in the five-game series went to extra innings. Like the World Series match-up this year, the Astros were playing the Philadelphia Phillies.
"My heart was broken in 1980," Guitar said of watching his team lose in Game 5 when he was 11 years old. "It was the worst thing I think I could ever go through — I remember I couldn't talk for days after they lost.
"I've been a big fan ever since."
Chance at redemption
Like all baseball fans, Guitar was disappointed when the 2017 World Series win by the Astros was marred by a cheating scandal. A Major League Baseball investigation found the Astros broke the rules by illegally stealing signs during that championship season.
Even so, nearly 40 years after pledging his allegiance to the Stros, he couldn't bring himself to drop his team.
"Nope — they're my boys. And you know a lot of the cheating from what I read, it started from the coaching down and they got rid of all the coaches."
Guitar knows some will never forgive the Houston Astros, but he said only five of the players from the 2017 team remain on the roster, and it's time to move on.
"Even at the time when the Astros were caught cheating, there was the [Boston Red] Socks and the Yankees were under investigation, but the Astros are the ones that got caught."
"So that was hard, but at the same time, I've been an Astros fan so long, I can't let them go now."
He hopes the team will prove it can win this year without stealing signs.
"I think if they win, it proves that they're the best," he said. "I guess that was disappointing about the cheating scandal … because they were good enough, as far as I'm concerned, to have won the World Series without cheating."
First pitch of the World Series is in Houston on Friday night at 9:03 AT, and Guitar said if he could afford it, he would be in the stands at Minute Maid Park.
The pandemic sidelined Guitar and his partner, Kris Murphy, for a couple of years from in-person baseball, but he said at least they got to see this year's team at Rogers Centre in Toronto.
"I get booed going in, I get booed going out," he said, laughing, about showing up in his Astros gear. "I don't know how many people asked me if I was from Houston because no one in Canada likes the Astros."
Guitar said one Toronto fan even tried to explain to him why former Astro George Springer, who signed with the Blue Jays in 2021, has been forgiven by Jays fans for playing for Houston in 2017.
"They were saying how they had the good Springer and we had the bad Springer. I was trying to say — 'It's the same guy.'"
'I don't know if my heart can take it'
The "nerves" for Guitar will start Friday morning and continue as long as the series does.
"I think the reason they're going to win is basically because of pitching. I think they have the best pitching in the league — starters and bullpen," he said. "It's going to be that key hit, the key home run."
Guitar said the team needs second baseman Jose Altuve, who has not been good so far in the playoffs, to get going in what he expects will be a hard-fought series.
"I don't know if my heart can take it, but I definitely think it'll definitely go six or seven games."
Until the Commissioner's Trophy is awarded, Guitar said, he'll be pacing back and forth in his living room as he watches the series.
"I swear at the TV, and say 'They're going to lose,' and quit and turn it off and leave and then come back five minutes later. You know — the normal."
Whatever happens, this baseball romantic said he will still love the magic of watching what he considers "the perfect game."
"It brings back childhood. I mean there's many great movies made about it … there's something about it. Just watch Field of Dreams."