WILLIAMSPORT – A team from Pennsylvania will play in the Little League World Series this year, but many locals will be supporting the Texas team instead.
Wylie Little League of Abilene, Texas, will represent the Southwest region in the Hank Aaron region of the tournament. And, although he has traveled 1,613 miles to play at Williamsport, one of Wylie’s star players has a local connection.
Third baseman / pitcher Carter Nelson grew up in Texas. His father, Brandon, however, spent his childhood in McKean County.
Brandon Nelson’s father was from Smethport, his mother from Kane. He moved to Texas in 1993, but still has many family members in the area who are eager to watch Carter play.
“We don’t come back too often to see our whole family because of our busy schedules and everything,” Elder Nelson said. “I told him our whole family is coming and he’s pretty excited about it. The kid is in seventh heaven right now.
Carter Nelson was instrumental in bringing Wylie to Williamsport, producing plate throughout the Southwest region from fifth in the roster.
As Brandon Nelson explained, Wylie’s Crosstown Little League rival is a contender for the Eternal State Championship. After getting past that test, however, a playoff streak started to look achievable.
“It was a battle to beat them, but once we got out of there the navigation seemed to go smoothly until we got to the United States,” he said. “Our children are quite resilient and they fought all the time. They don’t bow their heads; they take each other. This is probably the best group of kids I have ever seen on the diamond.
Carter produced three runs on two hits in Wylie’s regional opener against Arkansas. He had two hits, a run and an RBI against Colorado in the game that qualified Wylie for the World Series.
And, before beating Colorado, he threw a 12-hit shutout and one hit against New Mexico in which he struck out 16 straight batters and added a hit and a goal for his own.
Carter has been listed on social media pages as a player to watch in the 2021 World Series. And now his family in Pennsylvania will have a rare opportunity to watch him play.
“We received tons of family support,” said Brandon Nelson. “I have 25 people who come to the games. It was pretty cool, actually.
The tournament will not allow the general public to attend World Series games due to COVID-19 issues, but each team has received passes to give to family members. Players can also attend games that they do not play.
Brandon remembers playing for the Mt. Jewett All-Stars, where he played his Little League, but a trip to Williamsport was never on the horizon.
“I can’t even tell you how far we’ve come or what level we’ve played,” Brandon said. “I was familiar with the Little League World Series, but I’ve never been to Williamsport. Since my kids started playing, it has become a dream for them to get there.
Carter has been busy since arriving early with his team, mingling with other teams while also filling the media duties that come with the World Series spotlight.
“I’ll text him and he’ll respond hours later or the next day,” Brandon said. “There was one time I called him and I didn’t even say anything until he said, ‘Hey daddy, I can’t speak now, I have to go take pictures for ESPN.’ I was like, ‘Uh, okay, I love you, bye.’
Wylie has linked up with the other team in the Southwest region, Lafayette Little League of Louisiana.
Usually only one team from each of the eight regions of the country qualifies for the tournament. With no international teams at this year’s event, however, two from each region qualified for the World Series and were split into two divisions.
Louisiana will compete out of Tom Seaver’s area while Texas will play on Hank Aaron’s side of support.
This marks the first time that an Abilene team has qualified for the World Series, a feat the Nelson family have dreamed of for years. Brandon recalled an uncle’s promise to attend if one of the Nelson boys ended up playing ball at Williamsport.
“My oldest son was playing Little League and they reached the state championship a few times but never moved,” Brandon said. “He used to tell me that if any of your kids made it to the World Series, they would be there to watch.”
Wylie will start the tournament Friday against Eastlake Little League of Sammamish, Wash., A representative from the Northwest region. The first pitch from Howard J. Lamade Stadium is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPN2.