Chad Withrow: We Can Learn A Lot From Little League Baseball

In the first inning of the Southwest Region Championship between Texas East and Oklahoma with a spot in the Little League World Series at stake, two players were on base with two outs. That’s when Texas East pitcher Kaiden Shelton threw an 0-2 fastball that struck Oklahoma’s Isaiah Jarvis on the helmet, next to the earhole.

The scary moment turned into a heartwarming one when Jarvis walked to the mound to console a distraught Shelton, who was upset over his own errant pitch. The moment went viral.  

And then some of the responses went viral.  

Look, I work at OutKick. I’m obviously okay with contrarian opinion. I understand the inherent desire to go the other way when everyone is gushing over something. But come on. This isn’t the time.

Criticizing a 12 year old for showing empathy is no hill to die on. Isaiah Jarvis exhibited excellent sportsmanship in an extremely tough and competitive moment. Full stop. Good for him.

By the way, Texas East went on to win the game 9-4 and advance to the Little League World Series in Williamsport. So Isaiah Jarvis’ goodwill gesture happened in a season-ending loss. Does that somehow make him weak? Of course not. It was a remarkable show of strength and character. I applaud him and hope he goes on to big things in baseball or whatever he decides to do in life.  

My Own Little League Stories

Tip of the cap to ESPN for its Little League coverage. My cousin, Elisha Knight, is the starting second baseman for the Northwest D.C. Little League team representing our nation’s capital in the Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament in Bristol, Conn. We’ve been able to watch each game on ESPN+ and it’s been an absolute joy watching Elisha and his teammates attempt to survive and advance to Williamsport and get their shot at youth baseball immortality.

For the things ESPN gets wrong, they certainly get their Little League coverage right. For that matter, anytime they stick to the games themselves, they are batting close to a thousand but that’s another column for another day.

Team Michigan won the 2021 Little League World Series. (Getty Images)

Our family has been eagerly awaiting text updates from Elisha’s dad, Nathan, my first cousin. Nathan is the Pastor at Restoration Church in D.C. and his wife Andria does extensive work in service of the church. Nathan was a good ball player, starring at Georgia State before getting into the ministry. But what I love most about this family baseball story is Elisha’s older brother Judah, 14. Plenty of kids (14-year-old me included) would be trying to hold back resentment towards a sibling being in the spotlight. But not Judah. He is Elisha’s biggest fan and the one who pushed him to get outside and practice even when he would rather be doing something else. Judah’s attitude is a direct reflection of his parents and the outstanding job they’ve done raising two boys.

The great stories don’t stop with Little League players and families. Ricky Davenport has served as head coach for NW Little league for 35 years on a strictly volunteer basis. I asked him why he keeps coming back to coach Little League. He told me he had this same conversation with his wife when she asked him 15 years ago why he keeps coming back even though some of the baseball parents are a problem.

“It’s not about the parents,” Davenport said. “It’s about the kids. So long as they keep showing up for me, I will keep showing up for them.”

I’m rooting for Northwest DC, and I’m also rooting for my home state. Nolensville Little League will represent Tennessee in Williamsport after after a 5-2 win over Virginia on Tuesday. Head coach Randy Huth told me that coaching this age has helped teach him patience. “You always have to remember these are kids playing a kids’ game,” Huth said. “So you can’t be too hard on them for being 12 year olds.”

These are just a couple of the many great stories taking place across America right now. Latch on to any of them. I promise you won’t regret it.  

These stories are also an important reminder to block out the noise of those trying to place their own insecurities on a Little Leaguer. As grown men (cough, cough) shout from the rooftops about beta mentality and playing to win, I’ll be enjoying America’s pastime played with the youthful energy and joy that we all once shared. Travel ball is fine for many kids but there’s something pure about a group of kids from a single neighborhood or town playing for each other, their family, and community. We live in an amazing country where an event like the Little League World Series is both played and revered. So collectively as adults, let’s be sure to shut up and pay attention to what Isaiah Jarvis tells us about ourselves and our unlimited capabilities.  

Chad Withrow is the host of “OutKick 360” which can be seen weekdays at OutKick.com and heard across the OutKick Radio Network.  

Written by Chad Withrow

Chad Withrow hosts OutKick 360 and has covered Nashville sports, statewide, and SEC college issues and headlines since 2004.

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