RALEIGH, NC – Aug. 30, 1993 was one of the happiest days of Trot Nixon’s life.

It was also one of the saddest.

That’s the day the 1st-round pick of the Boston Red Sox fulfilled his childhood dream by signing his first professional baseball contract. But by doing so, he had to give up his other athletic dream of playing football and baseball for NC State.

“I really did want to experience playing college football, but more importantly college baseball here,” the former 2-sport standout said recently before a Wolfpack game. “But it was my dream to play professional baseball, so it was now or never.”

In retrospect, Nixon made the right decision. He played 11 seasons in the Majors, hitting 137 homers (including 3 in one game). More important, he helped the Red Sox end the Curse of the Bambino by winning a World Series ring in 2004 and earning induction into the Red Sox Hall of Fame.

But he never stopped wondering what might have been had he chosen to play for the Wolfpack.

Three decades later, he no longer has to wonder.

His sons, Chase Nixon and his younger brother Luke, are living out their own dreams as members of the Wolfpack’s baseball team. As proud as that makes both their famous dad and their mom, who was an NC State cheerleader during her college days, neither used their parental influence to steer the boys to Raleigh.

At least directly.

“I’m sure they secretly wanted me to come here. But they were always like, ‘Chase, this is your decision. This is your life,’” the older Nixon brother said.

Despite being handicapped by the cancellation of his senior season at Wilmington’s New Hanover High School because of the COVID pandemic, Chase had other options besides State. He spent a postgraduate year at Pro 5 Baseball Academy and picked up offers from Clemson, Georgia Tech and UNC Wilmington.

As a high school quarterback like his dad, he also briefly entertained the idea of playing football at a Division II school.

Chase Nixon (NC State athletics photo)

But as Luke describes it, the decision to play baseball for the Wolfpack wasn’t really much of a decision at all.

“We used to come to all the football games when I was growing up,” he said. “Chase and I used to play football in the parking lot, tailgating before the games. With all the past we had here, it was kind of a no-brainer to come.”

Once Chase committed, it became even more of a foregone conclusion that Luke, who is 3 years younger, eventually would follow.

The brothers have always been close off the field.

They spent their formative years doing things together. Hanging out. Playing wiffle ball. Watching games on TV and talking baseball. They’re best friends as much as they are siblings.

But the one thing they’d never been able to do – other than the 4 games that were played before the plug got pulled on New Hanover’s season in 2020 – they never had the opportunity to be teammates.

Now they not only wear the same uniform, but on most nights they’re in the same lineup – hitting 2 spots apart in the Wolfpack’s batting order.

Chase is a junior outfielder/DH. Luke is a freshman 2nd baseman who has also spent time playing left field.

“Looking up at the scoreboard and seeing both Nixons on the lineup sheets is pretty fun,” Luke said.

“Getting the chance to share the field with (Luke) is everything we’ve ever wanted,” Chase added.

“We’ve always grown up playing in different age groups and this is the first time we’ve been on the same team for an extended period of time.”

Other than their last name and the uniform they wear, the brothers are as different as a 400-foot homer and a popup on the infield.

At 6-1, 200 pounds, Chase is built similarly to Trot. Though his stats don’t show it, he has more pop in his bat than his brother — as illustrated by the homer he hit off 2-time ACC Pitcher of the Year Rhett Lowder of Wake Forest last year.

He was hitting .264 with 3 doubles and 13 RBI in 32 games (26 starts) heading into this weekend’s series at Virginia.

Luke is 3 inches shorter and about 40 pounds lighter, and is more of a line-drive hitter. He’s only hitting .248, but has drawn 28 walks and driven in 24 runs while adjusting to college pitching.

Luke Nixon (NC State athletics photo)

Both hit left-handed, just like dad did.

“I think it’s great because we have our own unique styles,” Chase said. “His skill set is completely different from my skill set. I can help him with what he doesn’t do as well and he can help me with what I don’t as well. It’s kind of a yin and yang type thing. Fire and ice.”

If there’s one thing they do share on the diamond, it’s the pressure that comes with having such a famous and successful father.

There are pros and cons to being the sons of a former Major Leaguer.

The expectations are high and the attention can become a distraction. At the same time, there’s a built-in respect that comes with their name. Luke recalls a time in high school in which he was intentionally walked multiple times to keep him from swinging the bat.

There’s also the benefit of learning the game from a family member who played it at the highest level. These days, however, Trot leaves teaching of the mechanics up to NC State’s Elliott Avent and his staff.

“We don’t talk about mechanics or game strategy as much anymore,” Chase said. “It’s more about mentality, ways to go about your business.”

As valuable as those conversations have been, one of the most valuable lessons the Nixon brothers have learned from their father came from watching him play.

Though not directly.

Although both spent a good part of their childhoods around ballparks and a Major League clubhouse, Chase and Luke were too young to have any vivid memories of their dad’s playing career. They didn’t see the home runs Trot hit off Roger Clemens, or the game-winning blasts in the playoffs. But thanks to the availability of game videos, they’re well aware of how good he was and how much he accomplished.

Chase, who was born on Sept. 11, 2000 and was only 4 when Trot helped the Red Sox break an 86-year title drought, is especially motivated by the miracle comeback that beat the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series and set the stage for a 4-game World Series sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Trot Nixon hit .357 in that World Series with 3 doubles in the clinching Game 4 victory.

“It’s fun to go back and look at the highlights and see how that city came together,” Chase said. “That team never quit on itself. The fans never quit on themselves. It was very inspiring.”

Chase has used the example set by his dad and the 2004 Red Sox to stay on course through the adversity he’s faced in his young career, including the 2 seasons he watched mostly from the dugout before getting his shot to play regularly for the Wolfpack.

That might be the accomplishment for which Trot is most proud. That is, other than the fact that both his sons are getting the chance to live out a dream that he once had.

So how close did Trot come to actually playing for State?

About as close as you can come without actually doing it.

He had already begun participating in preseason football practice. And he was scheduled to attend an 8 o’clock class on the morning of Aug. 31. Had he set foot in the classroom that day, MLB rules would have required him to wait 3 years before becoming eligible for the draft again.

Instead, he signed with the Red Sox, setting off a chain of events that 3 decades later has come full circle back to NC State.

Watching his sons play for the Wolfpack might not be as exciting as being out on the field himself.

But it’s the next best thing.

“It’s like I’m back in the grind,” said the proud father, who attends every game he can when not busy serving as a volunteer assistant coach at New Hanover High, where he also starred and won a state title. “I grind through at-bats every day up in the stands with them. It’s exciting to see them have the opportunity to go out there and play together.”