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B.J. Upton
'Bossman Junior' a star at only 24

By Mychael Urban /

Rays outfielder B.J. Upton's given name is not Ben James Upton, nor Bill John Upton, nor Bart Jack Upton.

It's Melvin Emmanuel Upton.

Confused? Don't be. It's simply another piece of evidence that baseball is the American game that links generations like no other.

As did his father, Manny, and his younger brother, Diamondbacks outfielder Justin, Melvin Emmanuel Upton grew up a celebrated athlete in the Tidewater town of Chesapeake, Va.

Before playing baseball and football at Norfolk State University and working as a scout for the Royals, Manny was one of just five freshmen in the 32-year career of Great Bridge High School baseball coach Martin Oliver to earn a starting job on the varsity team.

Manny also received what turned out to be a pretty useful suggestion from Oliver.

"Manny's father nicknamed him 'Bossman,'" Oliver told by phone from his office at Chesapeake's Hickory High, where he's now the athletic director. "So I told him, 'Manny, when you have a son, you should call him 'B.J.'

Manny was keen on the idea. Soon after Melvin was born, dad started calling him B.J. -- short for "Bossman Junior."

Junior has been the Bossman of the baseball diamond throughout the playoffs, and he's making the residents of Chesapeake proud.

"You like to see people do well, especially people you know," Oliver said. "I didn't really have the privilege of working with B.J., but I taught both his daddy and his mommy, Yvonne, and they're just great people. Manny used to babysit for me -- drove my car, too -- and there'd be times when we'd call my house and couldn't get through because he was on the phone with his girlfriend.

Age: 24

Norfolk, Va.

Greenbrier Christian Academy


Video | Player bio
"The girlfriend was Yvonne."

It's been a big year for the Tidewater area, Oliver noted. The local AAU program, which has produced several current big league stars, was featured in a lengthy "Sports Illustrated" piece. In addition to B.J. and Justin, Diamondbacks first baseman Mark Reynolds, Twins outfielder Michael Cuddyer, Mets third baseman David Wright and Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman are among the program's alumni.

"Cuddyer was one of the other freshmen who started for me," Oliver said. "It's great to see all these kids from Tidewater doing so well, but obviously the spotlight's on B.J. right now."

The spotlight is on the 24-year-old outfielder in part because he needed all of seven playoff games to pass Albert Pujols as the youngest player in history to hit five homers in a single postseason.

He added two more homers in the next two games, leaving him just one shy of the single-postseason record established by Barry Bonds in 2002 and tied by Carlos Beltran in 2004.

The home runs are nice, but Oliver is particularly pleased to see that "Bossman" passed on many of the lessons he learned at Great Bridge.

"When I was coaching, you didn't throw your bat or helmet," Oliver said. "But you see guys [in the Majors] do it all the time in the dugout. So when I was watching [Game 7 of the American League Championship Series] and saw B.J. make an out and just put his helmet and his bat back where they belonged, it made me smile a little bit.

"It's been a lot of fun to watch B.J. He's not just making his parents proud, but everyone here in Chesapeake."

Mychael Urban is a national writer for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.