Little League Team Coached By Other Kids Win Title

by Terry on July 19, 2012 · 34 comments

in Feel Good Pictures, Feel Good Type Events, People Feel Good Stories

Meet Coaches Cameron Shelley, 14,  and Chris Puckett, 15, whose Little League Team won the Little League District 68 Tournament of Champions. This is TOTALLY Feel Good Depot Type AWESOME!!

 By FRED SWEGLES / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

If there’s a Disney writer looking for a movie idea that’ll make kids pump their fists with joy and leave parents teary-eyed, look no further than the real story of a San Clemente Little League team coached this year by kids.

The team that couldn’t find a coach, finally getting permission from the league to bring in two San Clemente High School freshmen to lead it, concluded an improbable season Saturday by winning the District 68 Tournament of Champions in improbable fashion.

 Coaches Chris Puckett, 15, and Cameron Shelley, 14, guided their crew of 12- to 14-year-olds to three straight victories in the tournament at Beebe Park in Mission Viejo, finishing with a 10-9 victory.

This was a team that at the outset of the season drew smirks from some opponents because of its youthful coaches who look like they could be playing on the field. The team started with skeptical parents and an 0-2 record. But the players took the two teens’ baseball tutelage to heart, improving to 6-4 by midseason before going on a 10-2 tear in the second half.

On Saturday, the team, known as San Clemente American No. 2, was leading Viejo USC, 10-6, going to the bottom half of the final inning of the championship game. Viejo rallied and narrowed the score to 10-9 with one out, the potential tying run on third base and the winning run on second base.

Puckett’s father, Gary, described the dramatic ending. Pitcher Austin Reeves threw a third strike for what would have been the second out, but catcher Max Christian dropped the ball and it squirted off to the left. Christian had to either tag the hitter or throw to first base to record the strikeout, possibly allowing the tying run to score.

Christian picked up the ball and, seeing the runner approaching home plate, chased him back up the line, tossing the ball just in time for third baseman Max Herrbach to tag him out. The batter, meanwhile, had delayed running to first base, caught up in the moment. Shelly yelled “Throw to first,” and Herrbach fired the ball to first base, barely beating the runner for a double play. Game over.

“Out of my 16 years of Little League, I have never seen a game end like that,” the elder Puckett said.

“It was just incredible,” parent Kimberly Bradley said.

“That one play, you either win the game or you lose,” parent Brad Christian said. “The kids just played phenomenal baseball, every single kid. They actually worked on that play during the season.”

Josh Bradley, the first baseman, recorded the final out. “It was pretty crazy,” he said. “We learned it all from Chris and Cameron. They’ve taught us to chase the people back to the bag before you throw the ball. That was all thanks to them.”

When it was over, the players erupted in celebration. Josh Bradley, 13, had never experienced that in five years of Little League. “In the past, I haven’t been on very good teams,” he said.

At a victory party, parents presented the team with framed copies of The Orange County Register and San Clemente Sun Post News, both of which had published articles in May telling the team’s story.

Brad Christian, a Little League umpire for seven years, said this was the first team that had let his son Max play his favorite position, catcher. The two teen coaches knew how to connect with the players, Christian said, making a believer of each one.

“These are the most appreciative kids I’ve ever seen,” he said, calling them “the little team that could.”

Contact the writer: fswegles@ocregister.com or 949-492-5127

 

Chris and Cameron – You guys TOTALLY ROCK and are such awesome kids. Way to step up and help others.

Chris and Cameron’s Parents – You have raised some AWESOME Kids but I think you know that already.

FRED SWEGLES / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER – Nicely written article!!!

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