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Jonathan Papelbon
Baseball in closer's bloodline

By Corey Gottlieb /

One wall in the bedroom where Jonathan Papelbon grew up is decked out in dark red and black, a palette that underscores his owl-eyed intensity rather perfectly.

These are the colors of Bishop Kenny, the Catholic high school in Jacksonville, Fla., where a young Papelbon began to carve out his niche. That his current clubhouse bears a similar look can perhaps be seen as symbolic providence, the aesthetic workings of a higher baseball power.

And yet, the righty's childhood quarters are not the only ones decorated in the trim of a baseball past, and thus one must ask whether his success is less a product of divine intervention than the result of genetics.

Papelbon's younger twin brothers, Jeremy and Josh, donned the Bishop Kenny garb with no less prestige than their better-known sibling.

The Times-Union Baseball Player of the Year in 2002, Jeremy is currently battling his way up through the Chicago Cubs farm system. Josh, a right-hander, plays at the same level for the Class A Lancaster Jethawks, an affiliate of his big brother's big league squad.

The brothers recently made their collective debut in an illustrated children's book called "Pitching with the Papelbons," which tells of their combined effort for a Little League shutout. The project was coauthored by Jon Goode, the vice president of communications for the Class A Lowell Spinners, who met the family a few years ago.

Age: 27

Baton Rouge, La.

Mississippi State


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"Knowing the Papelbon family," Goode told WCVB-TV in Boston, "they take any situation and they just turn it into a good one."

As such, a story rooted in the Papelbons' boyhood memories was an easy fit for a young audience.

Those memories were shaped by parents John -- the deputy director of the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame in Florida (surprised?) -- and Sheila Papelbon, the family's resident collegiate megastar. A three-sport Division I athlete at Louisiana State University, Sheila was a pitcher on the school's first softball team in 1977.

Perhaps it was the former under-hander's dynamism that trickled down into the
hearts -- and arms -- of the future professional hurlers. Still, Sheila admits that she was sometimes no match for the boys' competitive edge, particularly that of her eldest:

"[Jonathan] didn't care who he was facing," she told the Boston Globe, "whether he should give a little bit, and be like, `Well, they're a little younger than me.' It didn't matter. It didn't matter to him."

That said, Sheila does possess the secret to keeping her oldest son on an even keel, and that is the raw truth of his past. It was Mrs. Papelbon who provided the ammunition for the summer's best prank, sending David Ortiz old footage of Jonathan doing his best Patrick Swayze impression in a "Dirty Dancing" spoof at Bishop Kenny. Suffice it to say that the Boston clubhouse was tinged with a whole new shade of red.

Which begs the obvious question: Can Josh and Jeremy dance?

Corey Gottlieb is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.