This has been going on since they were kids in Texarkana, Texas. The softball games would start an hour and a half before the baseball games, with their mother, Julie, the art teacher, standing somewhere in between the two fields, trying to watch both her son the baseball player and daughter the softball player, who were competing as much against each other as they were anybody else.
Lacey Middlebrooks is two years younger than her big brother, Will, and can't remember a time when she didn't want to do everything he did -- and better -- from the moment their father, Tom, the high school assistant football and head baseball coach, erected goalposts in the backyard for Will when he was maybe 5 or 6.
"And then here comes Lacey," Julie Middlebrooks said Monday, "wanting to be everywhere with Will."
Lacey would strike out a dozen batters pitching for Liberty-Eylau High. Will would come home after striking out, say, 10, and wasn't happy to hear his sister had whiffed more. The next morning, they'd both grab for the sports section, to see who had a lower earned run average. Mary, the youngest, stayed out of it. She took more after her mother, the artist.
"Mary's the lover, we're the fighters," Lacey Middlebrooks said. "It ran deep. We'd even race through dinner to see who would get to the living room first. It's all my dad's fault. He created the competition between his kids. But it helped to make us who we are."
But they'd never experienced anything like Sunday afternoon, when they were almost 1,200 miles apart, Will Middlebrooks in Boston, younger sister Lacey in Birmingham, Ala.
In the bottom of the fifth inning in Fenway Park, with the Red Sox trailing the Baltimore Orioles 5-1, Will Middlebrooks, who had been promoted to the big leagues only on Wednesday and was playing in his third big league game, hit his first big league home run, a grand slam off Tommy Hunter that landed in a parking lot across Landsdowne Street and tied the game at 5.
Meanwhile, in the top of the sixth inning at the UAB Softball Field, Lacey Middlebrooks, a junior pitcher for the University of Tulsa, connected for a three-run home run to break a scoreless tie against the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
Two home runs, one in New England, one in the Deep South, one by brother, the other by sister, almost simultaneously. How close did they come to connecting at the same time?
Red Sox publicist John Shestakofsky had the team's video production department review a tape of Sunday's game. "According to the clock that feeds our tape deck," Shestakofsky reported, "the bat crack for the grand slam was at 3:18.19 p.m."
Eric Hollier, an assistant media relations director at Tulsa, said the coach's video of the game was 11 minutes fast, but showed Lacey hitting her home run at 2:28 p.m. Birmingham time, which is one hour behind Eastern time. Subtract 11 minutes, and that places Lacey's home run at 2:17 (3:17 in Boston).