May 17, 2014 00:37 For Stacie Nola, baseball is a Mother’s Day tradition For Stacie Nola, baseball is a Mother’s Day tradition Ross Dellenger| firstname.lastname@example.org May 17, 2014 Comments It has to be purple. No way is Stacie Nola wearing a gold or yellow shirt to a game when her youngest son is pitching. It has to be Section 206. No way is she sitting anywhere other than the area at Alex Box Stadium designated for the players’ parents. She has to eat by 6 p.m., must wear a specific necklace and, at times, doesn’t even watch the game. “I’m very superstitious,” says Nola, the mother of Austin, the former LSU shortstop, and Aaron, LSU’s ace pitcher. Twenty-plus years of motherhood — cooking, chauffeuring, teaching — has produced two of the best baseball players LSU has ever seen and a bevy of superstitions from the tightly wound 48-year-old. Stacie Nola’s Friday night habits — Aaron typically pitches on Friday — rival that of any superstitious major leaguer. The ball of nerves in the pit of her stomach is as powerful as Austin’s cross-diamond putouts and as potent as Aaron’s first-inning fastballs. “Full. Time. Baseball. Mom.” her husband, A.J., says emphatically in the couple’s kitchen during an interview this week. It has been nearly 20 years since Stacie celebrated Mother’s Day without watching America’s pastime. That streak won’t end Sunday. Stacie Nola will be watching LSU play Alabama at Alex Box Stadium. She’s used to it by now: baseball for Mother’s Day. Years ago, when Aaron and Austin were beginning in the sport, her Mother’s Day gift was, literally, a baseball. “The entire team signed it,” A.J. says, smiling. Part of the story behind Austin and Aaron Nola’s success is Stacie, a friendly, sociable and baseball-savvy mom who glows when discussing her kids. “We’re two momma’s boys,” said Austin, four years older than Aaron. Like many moms, she has made two decades worth of sacrifices for her children. She has cooked for them and cleaned for them. She has dodged baseballs, pingpong balls, lemons and oranges in her own home. She has spent her vacations on road trips to baseball tournaments and her holidays in ballparks three states over. Just recently, she drove to Jackson, Miss., to watch Austin play a minor league game — he’s a shortstop for the Double-A Jacksonville Suns — before driving the next day to College Station, Texas, to watch Aaron pitch against Texas A&M. A.J. and Stacie say they’ve been to each of Aaron’s 45 starts at LSU. At least one of them was there, too, for every one of Austin’s games. “It wasn’t easy,” Stacie says while sitting in her living room, her hand stroking the white, fluffy coat of the family’s 8-year-old dog, Max. Max is a Goldendoodle, a mix between a golden retriever and a poodle. Aaron and Austin grew up with Max around in a two-story, three-bedroom home in a modest Baton Rouge neighborhood just off Highland Road, a few minutes’ walk from LSU’s campus. A.J. Nola runs his own remodeling and construction company while also coaching baseball. Stacie works as a part-time secretary. She’s the strict one of the two. “I’m always the one who had to tell them, ‘No,’ ” Stacie says. Sometimes it doesn’t always work. In the fall, when Austin was home during the offseason, him and Aaron played a game of catch with mom’s lemons and oranges in the house. They threw them hard — so hard that the entire home filled with a citrus fragrance. Her lemons and oranges felt more like sponges after the throwing session. “She didn’t want us to, but we did it,” Austin Nola said. “She looked a little bit uncomfortable, but we knew deep down she likes watching it.” They throw baseballs in the house, too. One stands near the kitchen window, the other near the stairs. It’s a 40- to 50-foot stretch. Baseballs soar halfway across the kitchen, over the dining room table and past a mantle of photos of the boys. Mom watches. “They don’t throw softly,” she says. “It’s not like a Nerf ball, either. It’s a real baseball.” Baseball equipment is sprinkled throughout the home. On this random Tuesday, a bat is on the dinner table. So are two gloves, one gripping a baseball. Stacie is asked about the possible damage of throwing baseballs upwards of 70 mph in the home. She glances around the living room, kitchen and dining area. No holes in the walls. No broken furniture. Maybe that’s because of the guys throwing. LSU coach Paul Maineri calls Austin the best shortstop he has ever coached. And Nola? One of the best pitchers — if not the best. Stacie has been there along the way, adopting a game she never would have previously. She grew up in Baker as one of four girls. Her father, Richard Barrios, was the Louisiana House of Representatives sergeant at arms. That’s where she gets her discipline from, she says. Stacie wasn’t a sports fan. She gave softball a crack, but “that didn’t work,” she says. “She knows the game a little bit, but we’re still teaching her,” Aaron Nola said of baseball. “She’s been around it for a while. Still, sometimes we’re like, ‘Mom, you should know that.’ ” So she’s not perfect. And she’s not a country girl. “Nooo,” Aaron says. “No. Not country girl. City. City girl. Definitely a city girl.” She’s a chef, too. There wasn’t really much of a choice when having to feed two male athletes — and they’re friends and teammates. When Austin was playing at LSU, half of the baseball team would sometimes eat dinner at the Nola home. The crowd is smaller these days. Aaron brings over relief pitchers Henri Faucheux and Brady Domangue on a regular basis, and shortstop Alex Bregman sometimes joins them. Entrées include chicken wings, steaks, barbecue chicken, spaghetti pie, roasts and lamb chops, among others. Stacie has one rule about her cooking: She does not cook on weekends, and that includes Friday night. Fridays in the spring are left for her superstitions. She eats early, preferably by 6 p.m., to avoid a stomachache while Aaron starts on the mound. You won’t find her anywhere but the parents section, and she wears a small version of a baseball around her neck inscribed with Austin and Aaron’s numbers. And she’ll always wear purple. The last time she wore gold to a game, LSU lost in a super regional to Stony Brook in 2012. How do her boys handle her superstitions? “They laugh at me,” Stacie said. Austin and Aaron claim to have no such superstitions. Just two weeks ago, Aaron had his worst start in more than a year, allowing five runs and eight hits and walking four in a no-decision against Tennessee. Before that start, Aaron got his hair cut short. And he didn’t wear his usual white cleats. Mom’s response: “Double whammy,” Stacie says with a laugh. Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @RossDellenger. For more coverage of LSU baseball, follow our Line Drives blog at blogs.theadvocate.com/linedrives.