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LITTLE LEAGUE: Cubs, Boone overcome doubts to take little league crown

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By Metz Camfield

The Chicago Cubs have not won a championship in over 100 years. Fortunately for Cubs manager Scott Boone and company, the supposed curse following the professional club doesn’t extend to the little league ranks.

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With the Cubs’ 16-11 win Saturday night, where they scored in every inning of play, an Anderson County Little League champion was crowned.

“Our coaches told us we could win the rest of these things and we could come back and win it, and we did,” said Cubs third baseman and closer Jordan Adams.

At the beginning of the season, things looked bleak for the Cubs and Boone as a manager. Though Boone had experienced success in coaching basketball for the parks and recreation league, winning the 2010 championship, baseball had not worked out in his favor.

As an assistant coach last year, Boone’s team won just two games. He then decided he’d give the head coaching position a try and 2010 was his first year at the helm. Unsure of a name for the team, Boone went to coach Gary Adams for help. Gary, naturally, went with his favorite team, the Cubs.

“I have a coworker of mine, and when I told him at the beginning of the season I was the Cubs, he said, ‘You’re not going to win. They’re jinxed, the Cubs name is jinxed,’ ” Boone said laughing. “I can’t wait to see him (now).”

Early on though, it looked as though Boone’s coworker might have been correct. The Cubs were mercy-ruled in the fifth inning of their first game and lost each of their first three games, including one where star-pitcher Dusty Puckett was on the mound. Puckett had missed the first two games due to prior obligations, be it his football team or the middle school baseball team.

Still, the losses began to make Boone doubt his own abilities as a head coach. Boone came home the night after going 0-3 and told his wife he thought it was his fault.

“(I told my wife), ‘It’s me, I’m just a bad baseball coach. I should stick to basketball,’ ” Boone said.

While Boone may have had doubts in himself, he didn’t in his team. With Jordan Adams and Puckett at his disposal, the best one-two punch in the league in Boone’s eyes, he said he felt like they were better than they were actually playing.

“When we were 0-3, after that game the whole team was hanging their heads. They just acted like the season was over,” Boone said. “I remember being very firm, and very adamant; we are better than what we’re showing and we’re going to start winning.”

The next game the Cubs trailed 3-0 to the Reds before rallying to win 5-4. After that, Boone said more and more players began to step up.

After their 1-4 start to begin the season, the Cubs righted the ship and won 16 of their final 19 games, including a 16-11 triumph over the Yankees for the tournament championship.

The reason he does coach youth sports is because of his son, Dylan, whom he has coached every year in basketball since he was 5.

Scott said he wanted to be with him more, and saw coaching as an opportunity to do that. His wife wondered if that was the correct decision though. Scott, admittedly, said he was much tougher on Dylan than the other players on the team, and would talk to him differently. It had gotten to the point where Scott thought he should perhaps quit coaching because they weren’t getting along the way he wanted to after games and practices.

One year ago Scott and his son got things straightened out in the coach-player relationship, and they now together have two championships in 2010. Scott said he learned new ways of coaching him and Dylan began to see him as a coach on the playing field, instead of Dad.

“It’s been an awesome year for me coaching youth sports,” Scott said.

The Cubs scored 31 runs combined in the semifinals and championship of the little league tournament.

The run output was seven-more than they had scored in their previous five games combined, and a stark contrast from the beginning of the season where they struggled to win ball games.

“We had confidence that we could come back,” Puckett said.

Puckett was the leader of the Cubs, finishing the season with 15 home runs, including four inside-the-park. By season’s end, Puckett demolished the league home run standings like he did pitches high in the zone.

Scott is quick to praise Puckett and give him credit for “making (him) look like a good coach,” but is also quick to point out the Cubs were not a one-man team.

“It wasn’t just Dusty Puckett winning these games for us,” Scott said. “It was the whole team. I’m so proud of every kid on this team.”

Scott also said if the professional Cubs and manager Lou Piniella had more players like Puckett they might win a championship sooner.

Following the championship, where Puckett went 2-for-2 with two home runs, three RBI and four runs, Puckett said he was leaving for Florida soon for vacation.

Jordan Adams said he was ready to enjoy the summer and just relax, doing the day-to-day activities kids love each summer like going to the pool.

With the Anderson County Little League season coming to a conclusion, the story book comeback of the Cubs came from a team rallying behind its coaches, and believing they could win it all.

“From the beginning of the season going 0-3 and coming back to win the championship, it’s just (unbelievable),” Adams said shaking his head.

E-mail Metz Camfield at mcamfield@theandersonnews.com.