Uptons savor victorious debut as teammates
ATLANTA -- As the past two months progressed, the Upton brothers grew tired of being asked about their opportunity to play together with the Braves. But now that the regular season has arrived, they are ready to fully savor this rare opportunity that seemed unrealistic just a few months ago.
As Justin Upton marked his Braves debut with an impressive home run in the fifth inning of Monday night's 7-5 Opening Day win over the Phillies at Turner Field, B.J. Upton was proudly enjoying the thrill of experiencing life with his little brother as his teammate.
"Sitting here, watching it live, it doesn't get any better than that," B.J. said. "I'm used to finishing my game on the East Coast and trying to watch the second half of his game. But now he's with me, and that was pretty cool to see."
Much of the excitement surrounding this year's Braves was created by a roster reconstruction process that began when B.J signed a franchise-record five-year, $75.25 million contract after playing eight seasons with the Rays. Two months later, Justin was obtained from the D-backs in a blockbuster seven-player trade.
"I think it's super rad that we have two brothers who are sick," said Paul Mathewson, an Atlanta resident who attended Monday's game. "They are awesome."
Those fans who have spent the past couple of months anticipating the arrival of the Uptons were treated when Justin opened the bottom of the fifth inning with a no-doubt blast off Cole Hamels. The line drive easily cleared the left-center-field wall.
"Everything kind of fell into place tonight," Justin said. "It was great that the guys came out swinging the bats well, I was able to contribute and we got a 'W' at the same time. You can't beat that night."
While he did not match the debut of his younger brother, B.J. exited his 0-for-4 performance having enjoyed the energy created by the raucous crowd of 51,456. The atmosphere was a little different than what he experienced during most of his years with the Rays.
"It's definitely a little different," B.J. said with a smile. "The Tampa fans are great. But this is a long line of history and a long line of fans. They showed it tonight. It's definitely fun to run out on the field to a crowd like that."
Both Uptons were greeted with rousing ovations during the pregame player introductions and again before their plate appearances.
"It was awesome," Justin said. "The fans came out and they were electric. They gave us a lot of energy tonight. It's exciting to step on the field when you have that many people behind you."
After being bombarded with questions over the past couple of months, the Uptons now truly understand how exciting it is to be playing together as teammates.
Separated by three years, their only previous experience of playing together came when Justin was permitted to pinch-run or pinch-hit in lopsided games played by the travel teams that included his older brother, Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman and Mets third baseman David Wright.
"We got used to it in Spring Training, but taking the field the first time [was cool]," Justin said.