A.J. Nola felt like he would be pitching in the National League Championship Series as he flew from Baton Rouge to San Diego on Tuesday to see his sons Austin and Aaron play in the Major League Baseball playoffs for San Diego and Philadelphia, respectively.
“I was a nervous wreck in the plane, I really was,” he said Tuesday night just as the Padres and Phillies started in Petco Park. “Just so many thoughts running through my head.”
And this is just beginning.
The Phillies won the opener, 2-0, on Tuesday night.
Now on Wednesday afternoon, A.J. Nola’s youngest son, Aaron, 29, will be the starting pitcher for the Phillies against the Padres with his oldest son Austin, 32, as the starting catcher for San Diego. First pitch is at 4:30 p.m. on FOX from Petco Park in San Diego.
“Once I got in the stadium, I started loosening up and getting more relaxed,” A.J. Nola said. “We’re living the dream.”
Since about 2:30 a.m. last Sunday morning, A.J. and his wife Stacie and have been on the elite level of Baseball Parent Heaven. They have been on various levels of that sensation since 2012 when both sons played for their beloved LSU Tigers out of Catholic High in Baton Rouge.
No Matter What, A Nola Is Going To The World Series
The Padres beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in front of a raucous 45,139 at Petco Park in San Diego not long after midnight Saturday, which was two hours later in Baton Rouge. That put San Diego in the NLCS for the first time since 1998.
A.J. and Stacie were watching in their hotel room in Philadelphia, where they had earlier watched their other son Aaron’s team beat Atlanta, 8-3, Saturday afternoon in front of 45,000 at an extra loud Citizens Bank Park as the Phillies advanced to their first NLCS since 2010.
“Hey,” A.J. said to Stacie. “One of our kids is going to the World Series.”
Actually, each has already played in the College World Series separately. Austin was LSU’s starting shortstop as a freshman next to sophomore second baseman DJ LeMahieu, now with the New York Yankees and in the ALCS against Houston Wednesday (7:30 p.m., TBS), when the Tigers won the national championship in 2009.
Aaron pitched in the CWS in 2013 as a sophomore for LSU with future Astros shortstop Alex Bregman, who replaced Aaron Nola there at LSU that season after Aaron finished his college career in 2012.
“Austin Nola was the best shortstop I ever coached,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said “I hope Alex doesn’t see this, but he was pretty good, too.”
To A.J. Nola, Petco Park and Citizens Bank Park have sounded a lot like Alex Box Stadium at LSU.
“This means so much to both cities,” he said. “Both of our sons are playing for their respective cities like they did so much at LSU. It has been so long for San Diego and Philadelphia, and everyone is saying the home park for both of those last games of the divisional series were the loudest ever. It really is something.”
Oh, and his son Aaron will pitch to his son Austin Wednesday night in a professional game for just the third time. Austin is 1-for-5 against his brother with a strikeout in 2021 and game-winning single this season. But those were both regular season games.
This is the playoffs – something beyond wiffle ball in the backyard.
“It’s unbelievable,” A.J. said.
“I know his stuff very well,” Austin said after Tuesday’s opener. “We talk a lot about pitching. I use a lot of his knowledge and wisdom to teach me.”
Austin does catch his brother during the off-season as well. They played at Catholic High in Baton Rouge before LSU, but not on the same team. Austin was on the varsity as a senior in 2008, while Aaron was on the junior varsity as a freshman.
“I don’t want to even think about this feeling or anything like that,” Austin said.
“It’s pretty neat,” the more soft-spoken Aaron said. “We’re going to enjoy this moment and soak it in, because we don’t know when it’ll ever happen again.”
Other than that, “I’m going to try to get him out,” Aaron said.