It’s NASA’s JPL Versus Johnson Space Center in Out-of-This-World Series

The typically friendly staffs of two NASA space centers – one in the Los Angeles area and one in Houston – are fierce rivals in a World Series-influenced battle that is generating heat similar to that produced by burning rocket fuel.

On Oct. 26, 2017, the day after Game 2 of the World Series, JPL baseball fans sport Dodger blue for a quick photo in mission control. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

On Oct. 26, 2017, the day after Game 2 of the World Series, JPL baseball fans sport Dodger blue for a quick photo in mission control. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

On the one side, Ellen Ochoa of Johnson Space Center in Houston stands in the metaphorical batter’s box for the Astros, hoping to launch a rocket-like fastball into a different atmosphere. On the other side, Dodger blue-wearing Michael Watkins of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory prepares a comet-like pitch that he hopes to throw right by Ochoa.

What, you’ve never heard of these players?

These “athletes” do not actually play for the Astros or Dodgers. They are the directors of their respective space centers.

Ochoa, a California native and astronaut, had to trade in her Dodger blue for Astro orange since becoming director of the Houston-based Johnson Space Center.

The center is “proud to be a citizen of Houston, and, as such, we are proud of all the city’s accomplishments and its great spirit,” Ochoa said in a NASA news release. “And our team is actually named after our space center, so I’m happy to be able to show support for that and glad to have a little fun in challenging a center that, except for this week, is our close partner in exploration.”

NASA's Johnson Space Center‏ in Houston tweeted this photo of Astros fans among its staff on Oct. 26, 2017.

NASA’s Johnson Space Center‏ in Houston tweeted this photo of Astros fans among its staff on Oct. 26, 2017.

If you’re a Dodger fan, you might be thinking, “Traitor! This rivals the Black Sox scandal!”

Not so fast.

Watkins, an engineer and scientist, graduated of the University of Texas at Austin. He has been rocking Dodger blue this postseason.

“JPLers are proud to work and live in the Los Angeles area here in beautiful Southern California,” Watkins said in the news release. “We love the chance to show our support for this great city, and for the great baseball tradition of the Dodgers.”

Phew — it looks like they’re even.

Thankfully, we’ll be avoiding a brawl this time around. The two space stations typically are partners and they collaborate on a number of projects regarding space flight. These two NASA teams actually like each other quite a bit.

Oh, you wanted a brawl? Well, will a bet suffice?

Here is the bet: If the Houston Astros win the World Series, Watkins will have to wear an Astros jersey for the day. If the Dodgers are triumphant, Ochoa will be sporting a Dodgers jersey around the Houston space center.

“This is a nice way to have a little fun with our good friends at JSC and we hope to see some Dodger blue there shortly,” Watkins said.

You didn’t think Ochoa would let that go without some friendly banter across the diamond, right?

“I am looking forward to seeing a little bit of Houston at JPL soon,” Ochoa said.

The series is currently tied at 1-1 and Game 3 is being played Friday night in Houston, which means we’ll have to wait a few days for the result of this space race.