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Uptons uniting in Atlanta a dream come true for mom

ATLANTA -- Yvonne Upton might have been more excited than anybody the day she learned her youngest son, Justin, had been traded to the Braves. She had lobbied for the move while in Atlanta two months earlier to see her oldest son, B.J., sign the richest free-agent contract in Braves history.

For the first time in her life, Yvonne would have the opportunity to see her sons play on the same team. No longer would she be pulled in different directions like she had been while transporting them to the various athletic activities they experienced as kids growing up in southeastern Virginia.

Nor would she have to continue spreading her motherly attention over three time zones, like she had to while her sons were establishing themselves as Major League stars with Tampa Bay and Arizona.

Instead, she has spent the first five weeks of this season cherishing the opportunity to see her two sons share the same outfield in Atlanta. It has seemingly been a perfect development for a woman who has the rare honor of having two children simultaneously playing at the Major League level.

Well, near perfect.

"She's enjoying it," Justin said. "But on our days off, she's a little bit upset, because she doesn't have any baseball to watch. It used to seem like at least one of us was playing a game every day."

It is easy to understand why an off-day might provide a void in the life of Yvonne, who has spent the past two decades getting used to the fact that one of her sons would be participating in some kind of activity during the baseball season. Her husband, Manny, served as a coach on many of the youth baseball teams and molded the skills that helped their sons become first-round Draft selections.

But on those days when Manny, as he's known, was serving as an NCAA basketball referee or on those days when their two sons were participating in events at different locations, Yvonne was there to serve as transporter, supporter and disciplinarian.

"She always found a way to get us there," B.J. said. "She was hard, super hard. Not much has changed. I'm almost 29 years old. She was a little bit harder on me. Obviously, I was the first born. She'll say she wasn't harder on me. But she was definitely harder on me and a little easier on my brother. She was definitely hard with school. My first three years of high school, I went to the same school where she taught. I couldn't get away with anything. She was just hard on us, but for the right reasons."

Because her two sons will be together, Mother's Day will prove to be a little more special this year for Yvonne, who spent 25 years as a health and physical education teacher before retiring to enjoy the fruits of her parental labors.

"She took us everywhere when Dad was refereeing basketball, working and doing all of that stuff," Justin said. "Mom was behind the scenes running us to practice, making sure our homework got done and being there for all of our games. She was a huge influence on us."

As one of the country's top young players, B.J. was invited to participate in his first showcase event in Las Vegas. He was just 14 years old at the time and obviously not above being reprimanded by his loving mother, who accompanied him on the trip.

"She gave me $20 to go downstairs to get something to eat," B.J. said. "I spent the whole $20, and you would have thought it was the end of the world. She wore me out for it. She was always on us. But she always had our backs. We hated it then. But the older you get, I think you start to realize some things and you realize it was for the best."

"She was a little bit of an enforcer, making sure we stayed the straight line," Justin said. "But she was nothing but a cheerleader. She wanted nothing but the best for us. She's still pretty hard on us. But she's our biggest fan."

Along with continuing to provide support, Yvonne's motherly instincts have also led her to continue to push her sons to realize their tremendous potential.

"I can remember her calling me in the past and saying, 'What are you swinging at?'" B.J. said. "It's just the way she is. 'Why you striking out? Why you taking so many pitches?' You know what? She's not going to say anything unless it stands out to her. You've just got to take it for what it is and know that is her."

Because they were separated in age by three years, the Upton brothers really never previously played on the same team. They were part of the same travel squad in the fall of 2001.

But from their mother's matter-of-fact point of view, they were never truly teammates until this year.

"Justin was always there, and you would have thought he was on the team," Yvonne said in January. "But he wasn't. He might have been dressed in the uniform. But he was never on the team. So they never played together."

But they are together now, living those dreams that materialized over the course of the past decades under the guidance of a loving mother.

"We know a big part of it was her," B.J. said. "During the fall and winter, it was always tough for Dad to be there, because he was refereeing basketball. So she had to do pretty much all of it. If it wasn't for her, we wouldn't have made it to a lot of the things that we did."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for

Atlanta Braves, B.J. Upton, Justin Upton