NORTH PORT, Fla. – Fans hoping to heckle the sign-stealing Houston Astros at their spring opener were met with quite the coincidence.
They got their signs stolen.
In the Astros’ first spring training game since their sign-stealing scandal rocked baseball, some fans brought signs jeering Houston, and ballpark personnel confiscated them before the exhibition opener against the World Series champion Washington Nationals on Saturday night.
In a Series rematch, the Nats got hearty cheers, while everyone in an Astros jersey — including the mascot, Orbit — was booed. Houston did not use any players implicated in MLB's probe.
Two men in Nationals gear sitting behind the Astros dugout briefly held up crudely drawn signs just before first pitch. One read: “You see my hate?” in large block letters. And another said: “Houston” with an asterisk below it, suggesting the Astros' 2017 World Series title should be permanently blemished because of the cheating.
The men didn’t get to show off their signs for long. A woman who worked for the ballpark quickly approached to take the signs. They didn't argue with the woman, but they did look confused as she walked away with them folded in her arms.
The Astros and Nationals share a spring training complex. Houston was designated the home team Saturday.
Matthew Silliman, who held one of the signs, said he didn’t know they were forbidden. He drove to the game from Tampa Bay and said he’s been waiting to let the Astros know what he thinks of them.