Family affair: Uptons have a blast competing
Parents among 65 relatives at the Trop as brothers face off
ST. PETERSBURG -- B.J. Upton and his brother Justin stood next to each other prior to Friday night's game between the Rays and the D-backs, and the closeness between the brothers was evident.
The brothers had visited with one another the night before, with Justin getting to see his nephew -- B.J.'s son -- who is just over a month old, and they managed to haggle over a dinner check. Clearly, they enjoy each other's company.
Friday night's game proved to be the first time the brothers ever competed against each other in an organized game. Of course, Edwin Jackson stole the show with a no-hitter against his former team in the D-backs' 1-0 win over the Rays.
Justin ended up with two hits in three trips to the plate, while B.J. went 0-for-2 with a walk and was hit by a pitch.
The stands at Tropicana Field had a distinct Upton flavor Friday night, including the parents of the brothers.
Yvonne Upton, the boys' mother, wore what amounted to a neutral shirt, which was specially made for her by Ida Jacobs, the mother-in-law of the boys' high school coach in Chesapeake, Va. On the front of the shirt she had "B.J. 2" on the right side of the buttons, and "Justin 10" on the left side -- her sons' names and numbers. On the back of the shirt, "Upton" was along the shoulders. Underneath was "Justin 10" and "B.J. 2," and below that it read, "My Two Sons."
She called Justin "her firecracker" and B.J. her "quiet one," and when asked if Friday night's game was what she envisioned in her dreams, she smiled and answered: "My vision is one to be in center and one to be in right -- on the same team. That's the ultimate dream."
Manny Upton, the players' father, called Friday hectic, before getting to the easy part, which was to enjoy watching the game. Manny helped arrange for approximately 65 family members to make the trip to watch the special game.
"The hard part was making sure everybody got to town and got tickets," Manny said.
Justin first saw the 2010 schedule and immediately reached out to his father.
"Justin called and said, 'Dad, guess who we play?'" Manny said. "He said, 'We play my brother.'
"Initially we thought it was going to be in Arizona, then Justin said it was going to be in Tampa, so we started preparing probably back in September of last year."
Friday night was the first time the brothers competed in an organized game due primarily to their age difference -- B.J. is 25 and Justin is 22. But Manny can flash back in his mind to the epic battles between the boys when they played in the front yard while growing up.
"Justin would always quit, because once B.J. got to hit, he stayed in the field a long time so he would quit," Manny said. "He would get his two chances, and B.J. would give it to him because he wanted him to come out and play, so Justin always got his two at-bats before B.J. got his one, because he was going to be on the field for a long time."
D-backs manager A.J. Hinch said he was happy for their parents.
"I think it's a great night for them, specifically," Hinch said. "Knowing Manny and Yvonne, who've been in our organization for a while, I was a part of the group that went and visited with them before Justin signed. To see this all the way through and get them on the same field and get them in the same park has to be special."
Hinch said he was grateful to the schedule-makers for allowing the weekend series between the brothers' respective teams to happen.
"And for the brothers, these guys are very close," Hinch said. "I got to see B.J. play up close and personal. I was the catcher when he made his Triple-A debut in Durham. They were in Scranton. It's funny how the Upton family and I have overlapped. So it's neat."
Hinch almost had a little fun before the game, but thought better of it.
"I joked with [Justin], and I almost put a mock lineup up with him out of the lineup," Hinch said. "I said, 'Would you have been in here?' And he said, 'My mother would have been in here.' So I'm glad I didn't. The wrath of Yvonne Upton, I don't want that."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.