SAN DIEGO — Before the first fall scrimmage in 2011, Louisiana State University baseball trainer Paul Mainieri cut up his roster. On one facet, he put senior shortstop Austin Nola; on the different, freshman pitcher Aaron Nola.
Austin promptly banged a double off the left-field wall towards his more youthful brother. The subsequent time he stepped to the plate, he were given a hit-and-run signal. Austin did as he used to be instructed. He swung at a pitch in the filth and moved the runner with a susceptible grounder.
“He comes back to the dugout and says, ‘Why’d you put the hit and run on?’” Mainieri recalled via telephone Sunday. “I said, ‘I didn’t want to hurt your brother’s self-confidence if you hit another one off the wall.’”
Mainieri didn’t pit the Nola boys towards each and every different once more. It wasn’t that Aaron wasn’t up for the problem. (Mainieri briefly discovered that he seldom can be overmatched in 3 years at LSU.) Rather it used to be as a result of Aaron got here to college in Baton Rouge to play with his brother, now not towards him, after by no means earlier than having the likelihood.
What, then, should the Nolas be pondering now, a decade later, as the Phillies and San Diego Padres play for the National League pennant and Aaron, 29, and Austin, 32, develop into the first brothers to sq. off in a League Championship Series since Roberto and Sandy Alomar Jr. in 1997?
“I love watching him succeed,” Aaron stated Saturday night time amid the euphoria of the Phillies’ divisional series-clinching birthday celebration. “One, because he’s my brother; two, because of the road he had to travel to get to where he’s at right now. He’s had a heck of a good story.”
They are 3 years aside in age, however Aaron reached the majors 4 years earlier than Austin. No subject. Aaron credit Austin as his very best baseball instructor. When Austin made his major-league debut for the Seattle Mariners in 2019, after grinding for seven years in the minors and switching positions from infield to catcher, Aaron stated he used to be happier than the day of his personal call-up in 2015.
And Mainieri doubts that Aaron would have even come to LSU in the fall of 2011 if now not for the undeniable fact that Austin used to be on campus, too.
“I just remember feeling very fortunate that the coach at Catholic High in Baton Rouge did not keep Aaron Nola as a freshman when Austin was a senior,” Mainieri stated. “Because they wanted to play together. Had Aaron played as a freshman on the varsity team, I might not have had that year with both of them.”
There used to be any other wrinkle. In 2011, the Toronto Blue Jays drafted Aaron out of highschool in the twenty second spherical and Austin 9 rounds later. Mainieri puzzled if the Jays might trap the brothers to signal via promising to ship them to the same minor-league associate.
But as soon as Austin selected to go back to college for his senior 12 months at LSU, Aaron used to be on board. It labored out neatly for everybody.
LSU complex to the NCAA Super Regionals in 2012, with its lone victory coming in a sport began via Aaron. Austin batted .299/.420/.434 and were given drafted via the Miami Marlins in the 5th spherical in 2012. Aaron went 12-1 with a 1.57 ERA as a sophomore and 11-1, 1.47 as a junior, and used to be named Southeastern Conference pitcher of the 12 months in 2013 and 2014. The Phillies drafted him 7th total in 2014 and signed him for $3.3 million.
Oh, and they were given their likelihood to be teammates.
“They’re extremely close,” Mainieri stated. “Having them individually was a coach’s dream. But to have them there at the same time, I was pinching myself every day because it almost didn’t feel real.”
Mainieri described Austin as “the poster child of the LSU baseball program,” as a lot for his management, personality, and connection to the group as his talent. And he used to be a cast shortstop, too.
“He was the best shortstop I ever coached,” stated Mainieri, who retired final 12 months. “And remember, I coached Alex Bregman.”
But Austin would additionally now and again catch Aaron’s bullpen classes, a ritual that persisted thru a number of offseasons earlier than lapsing as soon as Austin were given married and relocated to the West Coast. It used to be renewed final wintry weather. As the MLB lockout dragged into February, Aaron drove from Louisiana to Austin’s house in San Diego for two weeks of Nola-on-Nola coaching.
And brutally fair comments.
“He’s just direct,” Aaron stated. “Brother to brother, you know? We don’t beat around the bush. We’re going to tell each other the honest truth. That’s why I went out there. He’s the only guy that really knows me the best, more than anybody. He’s not afraid to tell me what I need to do and what I don’t need to do, which, I like that a lot.”
They have confronted each and every different earlier than. Austin went 0-for-2 with a stroll towards Aaron on Aug. 21, 2021, in a 4-3 Padres victory at Petco Park. And on June 24 this 12 months, additionally in San Diego, Austin coated an 0-2 pitch from Aaron into proper area for an RBI unmarried in a 1-0 Padres victory.
But the stakes are upper now. This is for greater than bragging rights round the Thanksgiving desk. A go back and forth to the World Series is on the line.
“They’re highly competitive kids, and when they go against each other, I know that they’re going to want to beat each other, like any brothers would,” Mainieri stated. “But I think Austin is Aaron’s biggest fan, and I know Aaron is Austin’s biggest fan. Just knowing how close they were here and hearing Austin interact with Aaron and encourage him and give him little tips here and there. That’s the perception I have.”
Aaron, who has made extra begins than any pitcher in the majors since 2018, is coated as much as get started Game 2 on Wednesday. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in 12⅔ innings over two postseason begins and 19⅓ innings total, emerging to the second as a big-game pitcher.
It’s a digital lock that he’ll face Austin, who has began each and every of the Padres’ seven postseason video games and notched successful in all however one, going 8-for-21 (.381) with two doubles, 4 RBIs and a .916 on-base plus slugging proportion.
Their folks will likely be there, agonizing over how they may be able to lean in a single route or any other. Mainieri used to be making an allowance for a go back and forth to San Diego, too. He used to be in Houston on Oct. 3 when Aaron carried a super sport into the 7th inning to punch the Phillies’ first price ticket to the playoffs since 2011.
“I texted with [their father] A.J. [Sunday] morning, and he’s like, ‘I’m just a nervous wreck,’” Mainieri stated. “I said, ‘A.J., stop it. Just enjoy this.’ Because they’re the envy of any father in America right now.”
Mainieri paused a beat, like a comic putting in a punch line.
“But I made one suggestion,” he stated. “Maybe wear LSU attire.”
And assume back to the one and only 12 months that the Nola boys have been on the same facet of a area.