How Vanderbilt baseball inspired familiar look for Nolensville Little League World Series team

Aria Gerson
Nashville Tennessean

When the players of the Nolensville Little League saw the uniforms the Southeast Regional champions would wear in the Little League World Series, they became even more motivated to win the region.

The uniforms were black and gold. Just like the Vanderbilt-inspired uniforms the team had been wearing earlier in the postseason.

" 'Oh, Coach we've gotta win, we want those uniforms! We want those uniforms!" the players said, according to Chris Mercado, the team's coach.

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Sure enough, Nolensville beat Florida on Wednesday to secure its spot as the top seed from the Southeast at the LLWS in Williamsport, Pennsylvania — and its right to keep wearing black and gold.

The moment Tennessee first took the field in Warner Robins, Georgia, for its regional, the inspiration was clear. The team was decked out in black pinstripes with gold numbers on the back, bearing a striking resemblance to Vanderbilt baseball's alternate uniforms. Making it even better was the fact that Nolan Brown, the team's star player, was the son of the Commodores' pitching coach, Scott Brown.

But Brown didn't have any influence on the selection of the uniforms. In fact, it was a bit of serendipity. Nolensville Little League used to be called South Nashville Little League and located within the city limits, but in 2017, Tusculum Elementary was torn down and rebuilt on top of the baseball field. The league relocated farther south to Nolensville, with an agreement it would keep the name South Nashville Little League for three years.

That agreement expired in 2020, and the league's board changed the name to Nolensville Little League. Thus, new uniforms were needed.

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The coaches came up with the idea to model the uniforms after Vanderbilt, a hometown team to which Nolensville players looked up and whose uniforms they loved. The presence of the Browns didn't hurt, either.

Scott Brown, whose son has been involved with the Nolensville Little League all-stars since fall 2019, didn't know about the new uniforms until Mercado showed him a mock-up of the pinstripes.

His reaction? "Those look awesome."

Home from Omaha

The road to Williamsport is long for Little League World Series teams. First, teams play in a district competition, then the state tournament, then the regionals. This year, the top two teams in each regional advanced to Williamsport due to COVID-19-related restrictions preventing international teams from competing.

In the districts, Nolensville had to face one of the toughest teams it has faced yet: rival Goodlettsville. The tournament was in late June, overlapping with Vanderbilt's trip to the College World Series.

Nolan Brown, 12, has grown up alongside the Commodores, taking batting practice with them and hanging out in the locker room. He wanted to make the trip to Omaha, Nebraska, for the CWS, but his dad said no.

"He was hoping to fly out the Monday before his district had started and we had told him that we're not gonna do that," Scott Brown told The Tennessean. "You're gonna stay with your team. you've been working with your team for a couple years. You're a player now, this is a journey for you."

Scott's wife, Mary, flew home before the second week in Omaha to be with Nolan. Scott, meanwhile, watched the district tournament on TV from their hotel with hitting coach Mike Baxter.

"(We) were like super fans, jumping up and down," Scott Brown said.

During the state tournament in early July, Scott got up at 4 a.m. every morning to drive to Atlanta to scout recruits, then back to Maryville to watch Nolan at night.

Nolensville won the state tournament and the right to represent Tennessee in Warner Robins. There, Scott and Mary sat in the stands with a cutout of Nolan's face. As a first baseman, Nolan hit .600 with four home runs and 14 RBIs. As a pitcher, he tossed nine innings and allowed two runs with 11 strikeouts.

After dropping its second game to Georgia and falling to the losers bracket, Tennessee was perfect the rest of the way. It won a rematch with Georgia to secure a spot in Williamsport and then beat Florida to become the regional champion.

Commodore support

During the regional tournament, Scott Brown got a text from David Price, a former Vanderbilt star. Price, the No. 1 overall MLB Draft pick in 2007, was never coached by Brown, who joined the Commodores in 2013.

"Oh my god your son's a beast, he's killing it, he's balling," Price said, according to Brown.

Another text came from Dodgers ace Walker Buehler, another former Vanderbilt star. "Your kid's a hitter, huh? That's about right for you."

Current and former Vanderbilt players have been following Nolan's journey. Among those who shouted out Nolan on social media have been 2021 team members Kumar Rocker, Enrique Bradfield and Christian Little; former players Patrick Raby, Harry Ray, Jared Miller and Justin Wilson; and team general manager Brooks Webb.

"I think it just speaks to the environment and culture that's created here by Coach (Tim) Corbin," Brown said. " ... He gets here and he jumps into cages with these guys and he's hanging out in the locker room with these guys and they just treat him like he's just a normal kid and he's just one of them and they talk to him like that and it's just fun. So when he has success and his team has success, it's just great to see these guys reach out."

Scott Brown has never been to Williamsport. He always had a similar mentality about it as Omaha — he wasn't going to go until he had earned the trip or no longer could earn it.

Next year, Nolan will be too old for Little League, and Brown doesn't have any other sons. This year was his last shot. But Nolan earned the trip and now, just two months after helping Vanderbilt reach Omaha, Scott Brown is just along for the ride.

Aria Gerson covers Vanderbilt athletics for The Tennessean. Contact her at or on Twitter @aria_gerson.