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Willson Contreras didn’t want to talk about it.
Not that the 30-year-old Cubs catcher wasn’t excited about the prospect of seeing his younger brother, 24-year-old William, make his first-career All-Star Game and join Willson — who at that point was already likely to be voted the National League’s starting catcher — in Los Angeles. He just didn’t want to jinx anything or make himself or his brother feel like they had to go above and beyond to get there.
“We haven’t talked about it,” Willson said back at the end of the Cubs’ series in St. Louis on June 26. “Sometimes, we feel like if we talk about something that can be out of reach, we put pressure on ourselves instead of letting things happen for us. Keep playing the way we’ve been playing all this year and see what happens.”
It all goes back to the brothers’ days of growing up in Venezuela and dreaming of one day getting to this point. Back then, their ballpark was the patio and their gear included a plastic ball and a stick.
“We used to do that every single day,” Willson said last week. “We were just kids wanting to play baseball, dreaming of coming to the big leagues, making it to the big leagues, and then making it to an All-Star Game.”
Not too long after came the time that the brothers stopped sharing the same field.
Willson signed with the Cubs in 2009, leaving his home country to go to another and try to make it in Major League Baseball. While he was doing that, William was carving out his own baseball path and signed with the Braves in 2015. It took a few years, but this year, they’ve started checking off all the boxes on the list of brotherhood milestones they could achieve.
First came their lineup card exchange in Atlanta on April 28, with William being recalled that same day, just in time to make the emotional moment come to fruition. Then, when the Cubs hosted the Braves for a series in mid-June, the Contreras brothers found themselves starting at catcher for their respective teams, the first time they’d ever gotten to play against each other in the majors.
“I think we’re blessed,” Willson said. “Those are blessed moments.”
Maybe the best moment of all came last Sunday, when Willson got a text message from his younger brother just before the Cubs’ series finale against the Dodgers.
Willson had already made the All-Star team as a starter, but William was beaten out in voting by the Phillies’ Bryce Harper for the designated hitter spot. When All-Star reserves were announced a couple days later, though, William earned the spot through the players’ vote, and because Harper has been out with a fractured left thumb, William was bumped into the starting lineup.
Willson hadn’t seen the news yet, but William made sure to send him a little evidence that they would finally be in the same lineup for the first time since they were kids.
“He texted me with the envelope that we get with the invitation,” Willson said last Tuesday. “It was amazing to find out that my little brother has made the All-Star team as a starter. It makes me even prouder of him. He’s been doing a really great job in the MLB. He got sent down [to the minors] early in the year, and then he got called up again. Ever since then, he told me that he’ll be here and not going back down. That’s something that I really take pride in him [for], because it’s not easy to say it and do it, but he’s done it. Hopefully, he keeps going.”
That was a moment for Willson to remember, but an even better one awaited him when he returned to Los Angeles just over a week later. When they took the field at Dodger Stadium for the Midsummer Classic on Tuesday, Willson and William joined an exclusive list.
The Contrerases became the first pair of brothers to appear in the same All-Star Game since Aaron and Bret Boone in 2003. They became the first pair of brothers to play for the same All-Star team since Roberto and Sandy Alomar Jr. 1998. And they became the first pair of brothers to be in the same All-Star starting lineup since the Alomars in 1992, just the fifth brother duo to ever accomplish the feat.
And it wasn’t just the two of them that made the trip, either. Now that he’s been able to get both of his parents, Wuiliam and Olga, as well as other family members to the United States, Willson has more peace of mind, and knowing what his parents had to do to raise three sons (Willson and Willam, along with the eldest brother, Willmer) back in Venezuela, the party in Los Angeles was going to be a celebration for the whole family.
“We’re all going there. We’re all here, so why not?” Willson said. “They deserve it more than I do. Especially my mom and dad. They did everything they could to raise three kids in a poor neighborhood. That’s not an easy job. I think they deserve more than I do to go there.”
No, the brothers didn’t put together the kind of game that not even Hollywood could come up with.
Willson struck out swinging to end the bottom of the first, William took a called strike three leading off the bottom of the second — yes, they hit back-to-back in this one, just another one of those special things to happen to the brothers this season — and then Willson reached on an error by José Ramirez in the fourth.
It wasn’t the All-Star performance the family wanted to have, but that also didn’t matter much. To Willson, all he cared about was being able to share the moment with his brother and celebrating what they did to get to there.
“I’m just looking forward to enjoying it with him,” Willson said a week before the festivities. “Enjoying as much as we can the All-Star Game, and hopefully, many [more] of those come around, too.”
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