Prep standout expected to be selected along with college brother
By Pat James
ATLANTA -- A game of one-on-one, that's all it was. Two brothers pitted against each other in a struggle for athletic dominance.
Growing up, Nathaniel and Josh Lowe spent many hours in their front yard playing football, lined up across from each other to see who would win their matchup and earn bragging rights that day. Their father, David, played quarterback.
Nathaniel, the oldest by about 2 1/2 years, used his strength to try to run his younger brother over. Josh relied on his speed.
Now, they play baseball. And with the MLB Draft approaching, Josh, a recently graduated third baseman and pitcher from Pope High School in Marietta, Ga., and Nathaniel, a junior first baseman from Mississippi State, are both on the verge of being high-round picks.
"Having a brother around the house, you're always competing and you're always trying to be the best at everything you do," Josh said. "I really think seeing him do well made me want to do well also. I was just trying to be as good as him, if not better."
MLBPipeline.com ranks Josh as the No. 17 prospect in the Draft after he hit .391 with 11 home runs and 39 RBIs and claimed Gatorade Georgia Player of the Year honors as a senior at Pope. On the mound, the right-hander registered six saves while striking out 33 batters in 22 innings.
Nathaniel, meanwhile, enters the super regionals of the NCAA Tournament with a team-best 49 RBIs and a .358 batting average. He earned first team All-SEC honors at first base and could be selected in the first five rounds of the Draft.
"It would be a stretch for me to go up as high as he does," said Nathaniel when asked about the possibility of being selected on the same day as his younger brother, "But that would be really cool."
David also drew the attention of Major League clubs. While he never handled a bat quite like his sons do now, the Mariners drafted him as a pitcher in 1986. But instead, he accepted an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, where he played football and baseball.
"My goal in life was to become an astronaut," said David, who grew up about 22 miles from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. "And the quickest way to become an astronaut was to be a Navy fighter pilot. It's produced more than half of our total astronauts in the astronaut program.
"Did I want to go off and play professional baseball? No, nuh-uh. I wanted to fly spaceships, I wanted to go to space."
David spent 20 years in the Navy. He didn't become an astronaut, though, as he fell in love with tactical flying. And while he was overseas on deployment, Nathaniel and Josh followed their father's footsteps on the baseball diamond.
"[Baseball's] something we've been a part of our whole life," said Wendy Lowe, Nathaniel and Josh's mother. "It's kind of a mourning after you put away that baseball bag after the season's over. You're like, 'Wait, what am I going to do now?'
"That's been our family vacations -- baseball, baseball fields, baseball tournaments. When you get busy like that, you don't have time to go other places, unfortunately. But we love it."
Josh has adhered to his father's pointers on the pitching mound, while also learning the nuances of hitting by watching Nathaniel. As the top two-way talent in the Draft, he recognizes both of them -- and Wendy for her support -- as the most influential people in his baseball career.
Josh says he prefers playing in the field instead of pitching because it allows him to make more of an impact on a game. If he attends Florida State, he'll likely play both.
But would it be hard to turn down an offer from a big league team?
"I don't think it will be that difficult," said Josh of the decision, "Because I look at it from a standpoint of if a team is going to pay me enough to skip college to go play for them, then I'll do it. But if not, then I'll go to a great school, have a great time there and then enter the Draft after I'm done."
And no matter where Josh and Nathaniel land in the Draft, their father -- who watched them compete in their front yard all of those years ago -- will take pride in what they accomplish.
"Even if the Draft really falls apart for some strange reason," David said, "it doesn't matter. I've still got two great kids."
Pat James is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.