In Nolensville, a town of 14,000, the biggest stars are 13 boys chasing Little League glory
Traffic lights are scarce on Nolensville Road, the main street that bears the name of the Williamson County town of nearly 14,000 nestled nearly 24 miles outside of Nashville.
Many 19th-century buildings with stories to tell dot either side of the street — the 145-year-old Waller Funeral Home, a 121-year-old Amish goods store that used to be a mill, a bed and breakfast built in 1820.
A sign planted on the side of the road reads: "Welcome to historic Nolensville," a 9.5 square-mile place with 13 boys from here and nearby areas who are making history together on a 12-under Little League baseball team.
Traffic on this early, steamy Saturday afternoon is not scarce, a far cry from 1797 when, legend has it, American Revolutionary War veteran William Nolen's wagon broke down there and he and his family decided to stay. Fifty-one years later, Nolensville was incorporated. The site of some Civil War battles, the town was reincorporated in 1996 and has more than tripled in size with many mutli-use developments and subdivisions popping up in recent years.
Welcome banners wave willingly in the breeze before a left turn leads past Nolensville United Methodist Church, built in 1894, and its 75-foot steeple, to a cluster of four ball fields.
Standing under scant shade in batting cage, Nolensville Little League president David Jones presides over a practice at one of the homes of the town's youth baseball and softball programs.
The complex's most famous tenants are 795 miles away, in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, preparing to play in the Little League World Series, which begins with a game Thursday (2 p.m., ESPN) against Ohio. The Nolensville boys had just been fitted for their Southeast Region uniforms, the attire they will wear during Little League's most prestigious tournament, after a 372-mile bus ride from Warner Robins, Georgia, to Williamsport from the Southeast Regional.
This year's state championship banner, which seems to have been won so long ago by the 13 boys and three coaches, is fastened to a fence on one of the fields in Nolensville.
Fields the kids and coaches haven't seen much lately as they've made their way through the state and regional tournaments on their way to Williamsport. They haven't been home in more than a week. The town that many of them call home, though, hasn't forgotten about them.
"It's an exciting time," said Elmer Hill, a 74-year-old Nolensville resident and fan of the team. "The team is just kind of exceeding expectations, and I don't know what anyone's expectations even are. But they're doing it."
'BOYS ARE EXCITED': Nolensville Little League World Series team undaunted after crowds curtailed
Hill and his wife, Anna, moved to town in 2013, but have been around the area since 1999. He said the team has been the talk of the town for quite some time.
"There's a huge buzz," said Hill, who has attended a few of the team's games this year.
And not just from those in and around town, where another huge banner honoring the team hangs in front of city hall. Nolensville is the ninth team from Tennessee to advance to the Little League World Series and will try to become the first from here to win the title.
Hill started a GoFundMe page to help subsidize some of the expenses associated with going to the Little League World Series, an effort he said had raised a few thousand dollars. One of those donations, though, snatched his attention.
It was a $150 gift — from a family from the Georgia team Nolensville defeated in the regional.
There was a message attached: "It was Nick Hatchell, No. 99," Hill said. "It says, 'Congrats, boys. Good luck and much success this coming week at Williamsport. Number one: Hit the ball hard; No. 2: Have fun; No. 3: Be a kid; Four: Everyone has a job to do."
"It's amazing," Hill said. "That's the thing about Little League sports, there's more there than what people want to admit."
Hill, who is retired, said he ran a subsidiary for Boeing for a while before doing some consulting work. He and his wife Anna spend a lot of time volunteering and working with the 501(c)(3) that helps cancer patients. He, Anna and their daughter all are cancer survivors.
He said he religiously follows the two-time state championship high school volleyball team. And he's one of many who plan to be on hand for various fundraisers this week, including a carwash, a pep rally, a spirit night and a watch party.
Brandon Weaver, whose son Hutch plays for the All-Star team, has felt the love, too.
He hardly can go a few steps at the baseball complex on this Saturday afternoon without someone offering a congratulations or a pat on the back. All the parades and celebrations, past, present and future, mean a lot to him.
"The win-or-go-home game against Georgia ... I've been a basket case this whole time," he said. "Before the game started, I said, 'You know what? Either we're going to win and go to Williamsport or I'm going to get to hug my son. Either way there was a silver lining."
Now Weaver will go to Williamsport. Then hug his son. And he and the other 12 boys will know they had a whole town behind them.
2021 Nolensville Little League roster
Meet the Nolensville Little League roster, with roster numbers and positions included:
- 1 William Satinoff, second base/shortstop
- 3 Tanner Jackson, third base/second base
- 5 Cason Booher, outfield/second base
- 6 William Dreussi, pitcher/outfield
- 7 Ryan Pearson, pitcher/shortstop
- 8 Hutch Weaver, pitcher/outfield
- 9 Ryan Newell, outfield/pitcher
- 10 Matteo Bruzzese, outfield
- 12 Jack Rhodes, catcher/second base
- 14 Gabriel Shepler, catcher
- 16 Nolan Brown, pitcher/first base
- 19 Drew Wagner, pitcher/outfield
- 25 Rocco Stark, third base/pitcher/catcher
- Randy Huth, manager
- Chris Mercado, coach
- Evan Satinoff, coach
Tennessee in Little League World Series
Reach Paul Skrbina at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @PaulSkrbina.