Nola family set precedent for bros facing off in playoffs

January 31st, 2023

PHILADELPHIA -- Only the Nolas know how the Kelces might feel on Super Bowl Sunday.

They’ve been there.

Before Eagles center Jason Kelce and Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce become the first brothers to play each other in Super Bowl history on Feb. 12, Phillies pitcher Aaron Nola and Padres catcher Austin Nola became the first brothers to face each other as pitcher and batter in MLB postseason history. Austin won the battle in Game 2 of the 2022 National League Championship Series at Petco Park, sparking a five-run rally in the fifth inning with a big hit against his little brother in a Padres victory. Aaron’s Phillies won the war, however, taking the series in five games.

Their parents, A.J. and Stacie Nola, grinded through every pitch, like Ed and Donna Kelce might grind through every play at the Super Bowl.

“The more we think about it, man, that was a pretty cool experience,” A.J. Nola said recently at his sons’ Strike Out ALS event in Baton Rouge, La.

But was it fun in the moment?

“No, no, no,” A.J. said, shaking his head. “What it meant to each city, I was feeling that pressure for Aaron and the Phillies, and I was feeling that pressure for Austin and the Padres. What it meant to each of these cities … it pressured me, man.”

Austin grounded out in his first plate appearance against Aaron in Game 2, but stroked an 0-2 pitch to right-center field in his second plate appearance to score a run and cut the Phillies’ lead to one. The Padres scored five runs in the fifth to take a 7-4 lead.

TV cameras had been fixed on A.J. and Stacie throughout the game. After Austin’s ballpark-rattling hit, the cameras caught A.J. standing there, stoically.

A woman in front of him had turned around. She tried to get a reaction from him.

A.J. did not bite.

“We got acquainted with the lady in front of us,” A.J. said. “She would stand on her chair, and she kept falling back and we kept grabbing her. She found out who we were. She asked me, ‘What are you going to do?’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t know. I don’t know how to react.’ I said, ‘I tell you, I’m not going to high-five you if something good happens, or if something bad happens.’ Of course, in the fifth inning … I laugh when I think about it now. My reaction was all over the news. Now I just laugh about it.”

Four days later, Austin flied out to Nick Castellanos in right field at Citizens Bank Park for the final out in Game 5, sending the Phillies to the World Series.

“We celebrated on the field with Aaron,” A.J. said. “Then about 30 minutes later, we went and cried with Austin. Stacie, she said it just hurts to know that one of these guys has to go home. That’s the kind of feelings that we had.”

“It was a lot of hoopla,” Austin said. “It was insane. I didn’t think it was going to be like that. But, shoot, we lost, so I try to put it out of my mind. I try to forget about it, think about the good stuff that happened previously and what might happen this season.”

Aaron struck out Austin during a regular season game in 2021. He gifted Austin the baseball that Christmas.

Did the NLCS come up this Christmas?

“We didn’t talk about it too much,” Aaron said. “It’s a sore subject.”

“It’s a sore subject on a personal level for him, but on a team level for me,” Austin said.

The brothers laughed.

“He got the team, I got the personal,” Austin said.

“That hit hurt me,” Aaron said.

“It definitely jacked up his ERA,” Austin said.

Twenty years from now, 30 years from now, the brothers will be able to sit back and reflect on a historic baseball moment. In the end, they said, it was fun.

The Nolas got together again this offseason for Aaron’s wedding. At the reception, the DJ played “Dancing On My Own,” which was the Phillies’ postseason theme song. It played after victories in the clubhouse and over Citizens Bank Park’s sound system.

“Yeah, I made sure I wasn’t in there when they played it,” Austin said.

“He doesn’t like that song,” Aaron said. “That’s a sore subject.”

“That song sucks,” Austin said.

Brothers until the end.