Community VIPs: Play Ball!
Xavier Navarro helped lead his team to the Little League World Series.
Written by Nancy Sokoler Steiner | Photographed by Micheal Neveux
For the entire 2020 season, Xavier Navarro and his Torrance Little League teammates endured sitting out their favorite sport due to COVID-19 precautions. So it would have been understandable had the team performed at less than capacity when Little League resumed in 2021.
But the Cardiac Kids had other plans. Nicknamed for their ability to come back from behind, the team’s dramatic season capped off with a spot at the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. At the heart of those Cardiac Kids was Navarro, then 12 years old, with both the heart and drive to rally his teammates.
“He’s our leadoff hitter, which shows who he is personality-wise,” says third-base coach Ollie Turner. “In the game that qualified us for Williamsport, Xavier stole home when the ball was between the catcher and the pitcher. He’s a ball of energy and makes everything fun for his teammates.”
Navarro “had an addiction to any kind of ball” since he was a toddler, says his grandmother, Evelyn Schultz. “Any time we went to the toy store, he went straight to the ball aisle.”
His grandparents, Evelyn and Jerrold Schultz, obtained legal guardianship of Navarro and his two older brothers when Navarro was 4 years old. When they asked him whether he wanted to learn baseball or soccer first, Navarro chose the former. He never looked back.
Today the 13-year-old plays all infield positions, including pitcher. (Having aged out of Little League, he now plays travel ball with the San Pedro Pirates.)
“It’s fun,” he says. “You can play in every inning. You can run and steal bases.”
Torrance Little League’s trip to the World Series involved battling through district, sectional, state and regional playoffs. They played four World Series games before being eliminated.
“The team would lose and then come back and try harder. They didn’t give up,” says Jerrold. “That’s why they got so far.”
As for playing in front of a national audience, says Navarro, “It was a little nerve-wracking. But once you play one game, you get the hang of it and don’t get too worried.”
Navarro didn’t just shine on the field. He took on responsibilities such as checking the locker room for any items left behind and helping shepherd his teammates to and from the bus and their various locations.
The Shultzes say the experience has been both a family and community affair. His two older brothers rooted for the team and assisted the coaches. The team itself became a family. Most had played together since T-ball days.
“They grew as they kept on playing and got stronger as a team. They supported each other, and the community supported them too,” says Jerrold.
The city of Torrance took great pride in the team’s success, holding watch parties and a parade afterward attended by local and state dignitaries and former Major Leaguer Nomar Garciaparra.
As for Navarro, he enjoyed watching the 2021 World Series between the Atlanta Braves and Houston Astros. Pointing to the players on the field, he told his grandmother, “That’s going to be me some day.”