Little League Says Goodbye To Great Coach

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One of the most successful coaches in the Payson Little League program is hanging up his cleats.

Tom Belcher, whose teams won five age group championships during his 11-year coaching career, will call it quits at the conclusion of the Major Division postseason tournament.

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The Payson Cubs captured the Payson Little League Major Division crown by winning 14 of the season's final 15 games. Nine of the players on the team were chosen All-Stars.

Belcher's final duty is to coach the Payson All-Star team during its appearance in the area tournament set to begin June 29 in Flagstaff.

"When it's finally over, I will miss it," he said. "Coaching Little League has been a big part of my life."

The veteran coach said he was resigning to spend more time with his five sons, three of whom are members of Payson All-Star teams.

Lane is on the 9/10-year-olds' squad, Chans is a 10/11-year-olds All-Star team member and Cole is on the 11-12-year-olds' squad.

"We have one more (son) coming up who will play (Little League) next year," he said.

During Belcher's stint in Little League, he always coached the Cubs team, but in different age divisions.

"We were in the senior division for six years, one year in the minors and the past four (seasons) in the majors," he said. "I've had some good players on all those teams."

Of those campaigns, the 2007 season might be the most memorable.

"It was unforgettable," Belcher said.

After a miserable 1-4 start, the Cubs rebounded to win 14 of their final 15 games and claim the Major Division crown by two full games.

Belcher credits the amazing turnaround to improved offensive prowess and camaraderie.

"We started really hitting the ball and the kids never got down on themselves," he said. "They never pointed fingers and that helped us."

A foursome of 12-year-olds who had been in the program for two seasons led the team. They included Justin Cobb, Matt Schreur, Dillion Richardson and Cole Belcher.

But they weren't the only Cub standouts.

Of the 11 players on the Cubs team, nine were selected to the Payson All-Star team.

During the team's amazing run to the crown, Belcher has remained modest, giving credit to others, including his players, assistant coaches John Schreur and Gary Chitwood and parents.

"The dedication of the parents and all the volunteer time they gave made for an enjoyable season," he said. "Also, we can't thank Gary and Cheryl Richardson enough for all the time they gave running the snack bar.

"It was a big moneymaker for the league and helped keep costs down for our players and their families."

If Belcher can continue to weave his coaching magic on the All-Star team, the squad could advance to the district championships to be held in Snowflake and possibly go on to become only the fourth Payson Little League team to earn a berth to state.

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