A mother’s pride can only manifest itself in so many ways, so when Yvonne Upton sat down beside her older son B.J. while her younger son, Justin, was announced as an Atlanta Brave, she could be forgiven a dab or two around the eyes.
“This is the greatest day for us,” Yvonne said after the press conference. “It’s wonderful, a dream come true.”
B.J. Upton was acquired by the Braves in November. When Justin was picked up last week in a trade with Arizona, the family was overjoyed to have them on the same team.
“I was in Arizona and had already gone to bed when the call came because I was on east coast time,” the Upton’s father, Melvin, said. “Justin came in and woke me up about one in the morning to tell me. Needless to say, there wasn’t any sleep after that.”
The Uptons had always hoped that the brothers would wind up together on a major league roster, but they never figured it would come this early or on a team like the Braves, which now has one of the best lineups in the National League.
“We talked about it over the holidays and talked about how wonderful it would be if it was to happen, but for it to happen now with them this young and on a team that could realistically go to the World Series, that is something special,” Melvin said.
Justin is the more talkative of the brothers, in part because he was the youngest and always had to use the strength of his personality to keep from being overlooked. But both are All-Stars who bring youth, athleticism and solid batting numbers to the lineup. And they share a bond that only a few major league players will understand.
Phil Niekro often said that his happiest days in baseball were when he was on the same roster with his brother. The Torres, Frank and Joe, also played one season together with the Milwaukee Braves. Henry Aaron and his brother Tommy were both Braves as well as being the first brothers ever to play in a League Championship Series for the same team.
There have been plenty of other siblings: the Duncans for the Yankees, the Ripkens in Baltimore, the LaRoches, who played together for the Pirates, and Marcus and Brian Giles who started together for the Padres.
None could have the impact of the Uptons.
“There will be a lot of comfort out there,” Justin said of sharing the field with his brother. “We’ll be able to talk through some things. But we’re going to butt heads a little bit. That’ll be the fun part. We grew up in the same house and butted heads then, and now we’re in the same clubhouse and we’ll butt heads again. But that’s what is fun about it: There will be some fire there.”
Justin denied that there would be a lot of trash talk, but those who know him best laughed at that notion. “Yeah, right,” Yvonne said. “Justin will be talking stuff to his brother all day.”
Melvin, a former college football and baseball player at Norfolk State, laughed and agreed with his wife. “They’ll be some talk,” he said. “For awhile there it was always talk about the National League versus the American League. They’d be like, ‘The National League does this,’ and ‘The American League does that.’ Now at least they’ll be on the same team.”
Then, as if realizing what he’d just said, Melvin Upton stared off into the near distance, a moist glisten forming in his eyes. “Very proud,” he said. “Very proud day.”