c/o Sterling Rodas

c/o Sterling Rodas

In Play(er) of the Week, we seek to highlight outstanding Wesleyan athletes or segments of games that deserve extra attention. Ernie Little ’26 is a second baseman on the Wesleyan baseball team who won the 2023 NESCAC Baseball Rookie of the Year Award for his accomplishments last season. Little finished with an impressive batting average of .368, not to mention that he led the team in runs, hits, and stolen bases. His NESCAC Rookie of the Year selection was the first for a Wesleyan baseball player and speaks to his impact on the team as well as the exciting future in store for both him and the Wesleyan baseball program. The Argus sat down with Little to talk about his season and his hopes for 2024.

The Argus: So first, could you introduce yourself?

Ernie Little: I’m Ernie Little. I am a sophomore on the baseball team. I’m from Melrose, Massachusetts. It’s like 20 minutes north of Boston. I went to high school in Austin Prep. They had a really good culture there which kind of got me ready for college ball.

A: Going back to little league, [how did you] first get into playing baseball?

EL: I just grew up playing baseball forever. I think my first word was ball. Yeah, I started playing baseball forever [ago]. I fell in love with it right away. I grew up a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, because my dad’s from Pittsburgh, so I guess that kind of sparked my love for the game. And it’s been the same ever since. It’s my passion.

A: Going into your senior year when you [were] choosing schools, what about Wesleyan really told you it’s the right place to continue your baseball career and academic career?

EL: I was really looking for somewhere with the right mix of academics and athletics. I kind of had a late recruiting process. I didn’t get too many looks, so I toured here pretty late. I couldn’t find anywhere to go. I was thinking of going somewhere and just not being an athlete. But my high school coach got in touch with the Wesleyan coach last minute, and I toured here. Loved the place. Really nice coach, really nice guy, just supportive. I liked the energy. And I just knew it was the right place.

A: That’s awesome. And so what has your experience as a student athlete been both baseball-wise and community-wise?

EL: It’s been even better than expected. I think our team culture is really good. Going into college is scary. I guess it’s scary for everyone. But right as you get here on the baseball team, they’re doing everything they can to make you feel comfortable, to make you feel like you’re part of the team. You have friends. So it’s definitely exceeded expectations. I love the program. 

A: So, you had a big year! You won NESCAC Baseball Rookie of the Year. What does getting a really special recognition like that mean to you, and to the team?

EL: It’s really cool to see work pay off. And I’m very thankful for the people around me because I feel like you need the people around you to push you as hard as you can go. And I’ve been very grateful to have people around me from high school and even here that are all about competition. Iron sharpens iron sharpens iron, you know what I mean? So just pushing you as hard as you can. It’s cool for me and for everyone else that helped me get there too.

A: I know you started your career with a seven game hit streak and never let up from there, so it seemed like you had little to no learning curve. Was there any advice you got from the older guys on the team and coaches that allowed you to start playing well right away? 

EL: For me, [it was just] preparation. I guess it comes from high school. My high school coach was always big on, [the idea that] if you know you’re prepared enough, there shouldn’t be a doubt in your mind that you’re gonna go do what you can do. I knew I was prepared enough, and I came in knowing I was going to succeed. I had no doubts in my mind that I’m ready for this level.

A: From this last season, what was your favorite moment—either a personal moment or a team moment—from a game that you think exemplifies the best that Wes baseball can be?

EL: We beat Middlebury in game one of our series against them, and we had been talking about that series for a while. They were a really good team. Then [in] game two we were down 2–1 in the eighth and Evan Diaz [’25] hit a two-run home run. And we took the lead. And it was crazy. Everyone was going crazy. The energy was crazy. I’d say that game. We didn’t win the third game, but we won the series and it kind of propelled us for the rest of the year to go take first in our division, so I think that was the best moment. 

A: That’s great! And then do you have a moment from your own season that really gave you confidence or made you think “Alright, I’m successful on this level, I’ve established myself”?

EL: I got some good coaching advice from the head coach, Coach Woodworth, just to swing as hard as you can. It clicked with me a little bit in Arizona [during Spring 2023 training]. I was hitting some balls really hard, harder than I had before right to the end of the season. That was when I knew I was on a good path.

A: To switch to this year, what’s the mindset or mentality of the team going into this season?

EL: I think this is a year to win now. This is going to be the year. I think we have a really good class. We have some older kids who have developed enough. We saw what we could do last year. We didn’t lose too many guys. This year, [we want to] build off [of] last year. Last year we were young. This year is the year to go win the NESCAC.

A: Is there any advice that you personally learned by playing a year here, that you’re going to impart to the freshmen?

EL: Yeah, definitely. You need the struggle. Embrace the struggle. I had my fall here where we do about 10 scrimmages, and I struggled to hit [about] .230, and I think that’s never really happened to me, but you have to really embrace it and let it build you and just use that struggle to get better. Build off of it and then build that confidence that you can be the best you can be.

A: And so finally, do you have any pregame superstitions and stuff like that, that you wouldn’t start a game without?

EL: In the games at home, we go into Clark while the other teams are warming up. And we have this pitcher who chugs a whole two-liter of root beer before every series and the team goes wild and it’s just hilarious. I love it. It’s so funny. But it’s great. It definitely gets us hyped up.

If you would like to nominate a Play(er) of the Week, please reach out to ebyerly@wesleyan.edu, ejlee@wesleyan.edu, and sweitzmankur@wesleyan.edu with either the athlete’s name and one sentence about why they deserve to be nominated, or the team, date of the game, players involved, and the segment that you would like to highlight.

Ethan Lee can be reached at ejlee@wesleyan.edu

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