SAN DIEGO (AP) — Austin and Aaron Nola are each other’s biggest fans. Unless their teams play against each other.
Austin was a typical big brother, never letting his little brother win at anything they played. Aaron has followed all of Austin’s football, basketball and baseball games.
The Nola brothers face off Wednesday for the third time in their major league careers. Aaron is set to pitch for the Philadelphia Phillies in the NL Championship Series. One of the hitters the 29-year-old right-hander ace will face is his 32-year-old brother, San Diego Padres catcher Austin Nola.
“I know his business very well,” Austin said. “We talk a lot about throwing. I use a lot of his knowledge and wisdom to teach me.
The Nolas will be the sixth group of brothers to meet in the playoffs, and the first since Baltimore’s Roberto and Cleveland’s Sandy Alomar Jr. in the 1997 AL Championship Series.
“It’s pretty neat,” Aaron said. “We’re going to enjoy this moment and soak it up because we don’t know when it will ever happen again.”
But, of course, only one Nola will qualify for the World Series. A brother will know the thrill of playing for a ring; disappointment awaits the other.
“I don’t even want to think about the feel or anything like that,” Austin said.
Aaron and the Phillies came out on top in Tuesday night’s opener, winning 2-0.
In Game 2, Aaron takes on his big brother for the first time in the playoffs.
Aaron’s state of mind? “Try to get it out,” he said.
Their regular season matchups were split decisions, both times at Petco Park. On August 21, 2021, Aaron knocked out Austin. The ball used for the strikeout, along with photos, are part of the family memorabilia collection.
In June of this year, Austin took over. He singled on an 0-2 pitch from Aaron, who had held the Padres scoreless until the sixth inning, to drive in the only run in San Diego’s 1-0 victory.
Growing up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, the brothers were coached by their father, AJ, throughout their childhood. Aaron became interested in the game while watching Austin play tournament baseball. They attended the same high school and were at LSU together for one season, when Aaron was a freshman and Austin a senior.
Eager to be as good as his brother, Aaron studied everything Austin did.
“No matter the step, if he didn’t get a hit, if he made a mistake, he would never put his head down, no matter if he failed or succeeded,” Aaron said. “It really stuck with me. I try to do it again today.
They took different paths to the major leagues. Aaron was called up by the Phillies in 2015 and Austin made his Seattle Mariners debut in 2019 after struggling in the minors for several years.
In 2020, Austin was traded to the Padres, putting him more often in the National League and in his brother’s path.
As fun as it may be for the brothers to go head-to-head, it’s nerve-wracking for their parents.
Mom Stacie plays it middle with her clothes, choosing not to wear the Phillies colors in red and white or the Padres colors in brown and yellow. Dad AJ wears both sons’ jerseys, alternating which one is on top.
“I think he usually wears the Phillies jersey over the Padres jersey when I’m pitching, and vice versa when I’m not pitching,” Aaron said. “Austin plays pretty much every day, so I think he’s probably wearing the Padres jersey a little more.”
Austin and his wife have two children, including a daughter born last month. Aaron is single.
Thursday is travel day as the best-of-seven series travels to Philadelphia for Game 3. Don’t book dinner for the Nolas just yet in the city of brotherly love.
“It depends on how the first two games go,” Austin said with a laugh.
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