The players on the Nolensville Little League team, including two who are parishioners at St. Philip the Apostle Church in Franklin, were able to live a dream when their team competed in the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
“I thought it was going to be super duper crazy,” said Stella Weaver, the daughter of Rachel and Matt Weaver. “But honestly, it gradually got crazier and crazier.”
“It was better than I thought it was going to be,” Weaver added. “It was so much fun.”
Also on the team was Nash Carter, the son of Emily and Mark Carter.
Nash Carter also said it was a fun time. “I liked hanging out with all the other teams.”
It was the third year in a row the Nolensville team represented the Southeast Region at the Little League World Series. For Carter, a pitcher and shortstop, it was the second straight year he made the trip to Williamsport as part of the team.
That experience “helped a lot,” Carter said. “This year, I knew what to expect, and I could show my team all around.”
“As a parent looking on, you could see a more confident player” this year, said Carter’s mother, Emily.
Carter was one of two players this year who were part of the 2022 team. “With guys returning, it helps the whole team calm down,” Emily Carter said. “They could help their teammates feel like they know what’s going on.”
His advice to his teammates: “It’s very loud. The hill is always packed,” Carter said of the hill behind the stadium that has become a favorite location for people to slide down on cardboard boxes.
This year’s team finished 2-2 and were knocked out of the tournament by California, which went on to claim the championship on a walk-off home run.
But the loss didn’t dim the experience for the players and their families.
“This Little League experience is probably the best sporting event I’ve ever been a part of,” said Matt Weaver, Stella’s father. “It was absolutely fantastic. The atmosphere is undeniable.”
“I always describe it as this wonderful baseball bubble you’re in,” Emily Carter said. “You’re so proud. You’re so excited your child gets to live the dream of playing in the World Series.”
It takes a lot to make the journey all the way to Williamsport.
The process begins in March with the Little League season. The top players from each team in the league are then nominated for the all-star team and they go through try-outs. Once the team is selected, they start working their way through the tournaments, first at the district level, then the state, and the regions, where a win can punch your ticket to the world series.
“Your summer is all baseball,” said Stella, who pitched and played first base and outfield for the Nolensville team. Besides baseball, she also plays on a soccer travel team and several sports at Legacy Middle School.
“The month of August was an absolute tornado,” Matt Weaver said.
Once the teams arrive in Williamsport, there is a lot more to do than just play baseball. There are lots of interviews for the television broadcast of the game, and visits from dignitaries and celebrities. On top of that, the Little League players get to spend time with the major leaguers playing in the annual MLB Little League Classic.
This year’s Classic featured the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies.
“We had one fun day with all the major league players,” Stella Weaver said. “I met some of the Nationals players. I got to talk to some of them. We played ping pong and wiffle ball.”
“I met Bryce Harper, which was super cool,” said Stella Weaver. Her family lived in Northern Virginia near Washington when Harper played for the Nationals. Harper told her it was fun for the big leaguers to be at the Little League World Series and that she should have as much fun as she can.
She also got to meet U.S. Women’s National Team soccer legend Julie Foudy, ESPN baseball analyst Jessica Mendoza, baseball Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, ESPN baseball reporter Buster Olney, who is a Vanderbilt University graduate and started his sportswriting career in Nashville, and MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred.
With the World Series being shown on ESPN, there is a lot of attention on the players. “I know I’m playing on TV, so I’ve got to try my best,” Carter said.
To help him stay calm, he keeps a small cross he received for his First Communion in his pocket. “I grab that to get my mind right,” Carter said.
Weaver made history at this year’s World Series, setting the record for the most hits in the tournament for a U.S. girl. Her four hits in four games also tied the international record set by Sayaka Tsushima of Japan in 1998.
And she had a huge cheering section on hand to watch her play. Matt Weaver grew up in Western Pennsylvania and 150 of their relatives made the three-hour drive across the state to watch Stella in the World Series. “Everyone got Little League fever,” Matt Weaver said.
For the Carters, the World Series was a family affair as well. One of the assistant coaches for the Nolensville team was Nash’s dad, Mark, who grew up playing baseball and played some in college.
“He loves baseball, and he’s loved teaching Nash,” Emily Carter said. “It was as big of a dream come true for Mark as it was for Nash, especially getting to do it with Nash.”