The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Christian Little finished high school early to join the VandyBoys, and his effort is paying off

The freshman pitcher is just 17 years old facing the best hitters in the SEC.
Christian Little delivers a pitch. (Hustler Multmedia/Emery Little)

Freshman pitcher Christian Little is facing some of the best in college baseball and holding his own. Through April 25, Little owns a 5.16 ERA in nine appearances, six of which were midweek starts.

Not bad for a kid who should be getting ready for prom.

Little is just 17 years old and doesn’t turn 18 for three months. If that seems young, he committed to Tim Corbin’s program at just 14 years old.

“My recruiting process was actually kind of quick,” Little says. “The decision to commit here was actually extremely easy because Coach Corbin felt like family right away. Coach [Scott] Brown felt like family right away. The culture felt like it was what I needed for me as a player to do what I want to do in my future goals in this game.”

Before he threw a pitch for Christian Brothers College High School in St. Louis, Little knew he was going to join one of the premier programs in college baseball. 

“As a freshman, obviously he came in with a lot of confidence and moxie,” CBC baseball coach Mason Horne says. “He was still a 14-year-old kid. He came in very young, and so as a freshman he was physically an 18-year-old really. He was mid- to upper 80’s on the mound and six-foot-three and really had a great feel for pitching as a 14-year-old. But in terms of life experience and dealing with things, he was a freshman.”

Little didn’t let the early commitment get to his head, and he worked hard to become the fifth-ranked pitcher in his class by Perfect Game.

As a sophomore, he posted a 6-1 record with a 1.88 ERA and 58 strikeouts.

“Even though it was a short high school career, he really grew as a person in those two short years,” Horne says of Little.

Little’s junior season was cut short by COVID-19, and he took the opportunity to take more classes in preparation to graduate early from high school. He had already been planning to graduate early by taking some senior classes as a junior, but the pandemic pushed his plan into high gear.

“If COVID wouldn’t have hit, I don’t know if he would have got it done,” Horne says. “You’re taking essentially three full loads of classes at the same time. And of course, trying to play baseball. If anyone could have done it, it was him, but it was really going to be a struggle. Then COVID hit and that created a lot of free time.”

Horne credits Little’s family for helping him handle the pressures of national attention and the tight schedule he needed to adhere to in order to graduate a year early from high school.

Little’s father Chris pitched in the Houston Astros organization for a year after being drafted by the team in the 12th round of the 2001 MLB Draft out of St. Louis Community College. He also pitched in low-A minor league ball for the Montreal Expos in 2003 and played eight seasons of independent ball before retiring in 2011.

The younger Little didn’t pick up any of his father’s pitches, but his father’s influence on him is strong.

“The biggest thing he did for me was me being around him at a young age when he was still playing baseball,” Christian says of his father. “I felt like that infused the love for the game to me.”

Little graduated from high school in the spring of 2020, but he couldn’t come to campus until January because of a test every high schooler dreads: the ACT.

Corbin says Little signed up for the ACT seven times, but his tests kept getting cancelled by COVID-19 restrictions.

Little was finally able to take the ACT, the last thing he had to do before being admitted to Vanderbilt, and joined the team in January.

“It’s a very difficult thing for a 17-year-old kid to come in, but I think he’s done a nice job academically, and he’s done a nice job fitting in,” Corbin says.

Little’s first collegiate start came on Feb. 24 against Western Kentucky. He allowed just one unearned run in three impressive innings of work. His next outing four days later was a tough inning against Georgia State in which he allowed two runs.

The bumps in the road are to be expected of any college freshman, especially one who had not played competitive baseball since the pandemic began. 

“I feel like I’ve matured a lot,” Little says. “The adjustment to playing college baseball has been hard, so as a player I’ve learned that failure is real.”

Little will be with the Commodores until at least the 2024 season, when he is eligible for the draft. He says he feels secure in his decision to come to Vanderbilt instead of entering the draft after high school, when he could have been selected in the early rounds.

“I just feel like for me, Vanderbilt offers more than what the draft could offer this upcoming year.” Little says. “That’s being able to grow as a person, as a man. Challenging myself academically because this degree holds weight that I wouldn’t be able to get back.”

Little has recently moved to the bullpen, but he could push veteran pitchers for a starting spot in the weekend rotation next season. He has room to grow and develop as a pitcher over the next three seasons.

“The sky’s the limit,” Horne said of Little’s potential. “I think a lot of people forget that he’s 17 years old, turning 18 in July…He’s got the drive. He’s got the work ethic. He’s got the mentality. He hates to lose, and he wants to be the best. I think those are all attributes that give you a chance to get to the highest level.”

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About the Contributor
Betsy Goodfriend
Betsy Goodfriend, Former Deputy Sports Editor
Betsy Goodfriend ('21) was the Deputy Sports Editor for The Vanderbilt Hustler. She majored in Human and Organizational Development with a minor in Business. In her free time, she enjoys online shopping, creating to-do lists and watching football even if she has no interest in either team playing. She can be reached at [email protected].    
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