Chattanooga Christian connection has strengthened Wharton brothers' relationship

Chattanooga Christian connection has strengthened Wharton brothers' relationship

April 7th, 2017 by Ward Gossett in Sports - Preps

Ben Wharton, right, says he always has had a close connection to younger brother Joseph, who was adopted by their parents when he was an infant.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Chattanooga Christian baseball coach Ben Wharton, right, shakes the hand of brother and pitcher Joseph Wharton while making a pitching change during a home game against South Pittsburg last month.

Chattanooga Christian baseball coach Ben Wharton, right, shakes...

Photo by Angela Lewis /Times Free Press.

When he was a teenager, somewhere around the age one begins driving, Ben Wharton's mom and dad were serving as foster parents for an infant.

They were asked to adopt the baby and at first declined.

"He and I had a connection almost immediately, and I begged them (to adopt)," Wharton recalled. "My parents had done foster care since I was in kindergarten, and we got him when he was about 15 months old. We'd had him eight or nine months when they asked us to adopt him. The adoption agency asked them to reconsider, and they did.

"I guess I've had a connection with him since the very beginning."

That relationship has changed over the years, and now Ben, the first-year varsity baseball coach at Chattanooga Christian School, is coaching Joseph, the adopted brother with whom he forged a connection so many years ago.

"It has been great, better than I ever thought," Ben said.

Big brother admitted he's probably a little harder on little brother to make sure he doesn't show any favoritism.

Joseph playing basketball led to Ben agreeing to serve as an assistant coach to Eddie Salter, for whom he played during his CCS career. Salter returned to coach the basketball Chargers for a second stint last year after previously working at CCS for more than two decades — a run that included a state title — before resigning as coach in 2007.

"Working with Coach Salter has been great," Ben said. "I have learned a lot from him. He's the same guy as when I played, perhaps a little more mellow."

As for Joseph, it was the beginning of the coach/brother relationship, one that has continued this spring on the diamond, where Joseph is a senior pitcher.

"He's been able to do what was asked of him," Ben said, "and I think he has exceeded expectations."

Said Joseph: "There are some times I bite my tongue. A lot of the baseball conversations we have — it's more brother than coach. He knows what he's doing, and he knows what I have to make up."

Joseph played baseball as a freshman, then laid off his sophomore and junior years. He was debating going back out this season, and Ben's selection as coach ended any indecision.

Even some of Coach Wharton's visits to the mound have revolved around their personal relationship.

"He wasn't yelling, but you could tell it was brother to brother," Joseph recalled of one visit. "He had more fire in his eyes. Most of those times, I take it as motivation. It's a lot of fun. He definitely pushes me a lot harder than some of the other guys, but I'm used to it."

The reunion has brought memories of days gone by flooding back.

"I hadn't coached him other than playing catch in the back yard or going to a field and hitting some," Ben said. "It's interesting going from brother to coach."

Joseph has long looked up to his brother.

"There is a picture of us. (Ben) was cutting grass, wearing shorts, and he had his shirt off and tucked into his shorts. And there I was with a toy lawnmower, shirt off and tucked into my shorts," Joseph remembered with a smile.

"Even when he went to college, we'd go see him and watch his games, and even now he lives 10 minutes down the road."

And then there are their parents.

"I think they're close to heaven getting to watch our games," Ben said with a smile. "I think they're making pictures every time we have a meeting on the mound."

Contact Ward Gossett at wgossett@timesfreepress.com or 423-886-4765. Follow him on Twitter @wardgossett.


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