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Teen-coached Little League team wins championship

June 12, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
In south Orange County, they call it "the little team that could." Little Leaguers coached by kids not much older than themselves overcome adversity and claim a major tournament championship.

Chris Puckett is just 15 years old, and his 14-year-old friend Cameron Shelley are used to people doing a double-take when they hit the field.

"It was pretty funny just to look at people's reactions because they thought it was a joke," said Puckett.

"I managed the first game and the umpire didn't believe me," said Shelley. "He asked for the real manager and not one of the players."

The freshmen at San Clemente High School became coaches when the Little League team known as San Clemente American Number 2 couldn't find anyone else.

"At the beginning we got off to a rocky start," said Puckett. "We started out 0-and-2 but then the team started to bond together."

They started noticing players were learning from them despite being so close in age.

"Basically everything I know about catching is from them," said teammate Max Christian.

The most valuable skill passed on to the players?

"Base-running. Base-running was the number one. We stole almost every batter got on, we stole second, we stole third, we were extremely aggressive," said Shelley.

While coaching, the two were also on San Clemente High's league-champion freshman baseball team.

Puckett and Shelley had to race between high school and Little League games and practices seven days a week, in addition to keeping their grades up.

"They're great kids, they're positive role models. They're great in the classroom both academically and athletically," said San Clemente High School Head Baseball Coach David Gellatly.

The true test came last weekend when the kids who endured sneers and jeers early on showed everybody by winning the title, the Little League District 68 Tournament of Champions.

"It didn't really matter what we did unless we won that last game," said Puckett.

"It took a load of our shoulders because it proved that yes, we can do it," said Shelley.

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