4 SH freshmen from Junior Little League World Series championship team hope to bring success for Lancers baseball team


Freshmen Jack Bender, Bohdan Faulkner, Dustin Staggs and Russell Yang (from left to right) pose for a picture at their victory parade in Downtown Fullerton Aug. 22. Photo used with permission from Mason Morris.

Hannah Kim, Special Sections Editor

Four Sunny Hills freshman baseball players experienced the parade of their lives last month after being part of a Junior Little League championship team, and now they’ll turn their attention to what they can contribute on the diamond for Sunny Hills High School.

“I’m hoping to bring energy,” freshman Dustin Staggs said. “I know there’s four of us on this team; I think that we already have the chemistry, and we can do a lot here. Hopefully we can win another championship of some sort.”

Though baseball head coach Arlie Kearney has yet to decide what level these freshmen — Jack Bender, Bohdan Faulkner, Staggs and Russell Yang — will play at when baseball season starts, he is optimistic about what these newcomers will bring to his team next season.

“It’s just good to have kids that were this successful before they get here,” said Kearney, whose varsity squad last season finished second in the Freeway League and reached the second round in the CIF tournament. “I hope that success will transfer into the program.”

He said the boys haven’t shown any signs during practices of being arrogant or confident, and he hopes they can bring this trait to the rest of the team.

“I just want them to bring their winning attitude,” Kearney said. “The idea that they know what it takes to be successful on the field; they know what it takes to win baseball games, and hopefully that can infiltrate into our lower levels so that as they come up, they expect to win, they’re confident, they know what to do, and hopefully that’ll transfer into high school.”

The boys joined 10 of the city’s undefeated Golden Hill Little League All-Stars team Aug. 22 on a firetruck ride down Harbor Boulevard in Fullerton as part of an after school celebration that brought out hundreds of supporters.

The boys were given a trophy, certificates and a key to the city,

“I didn’t expect it to be as big as it was … There was a marching band and a bunch of cheerleaders there [too],” said Staggs, who played third base for Golden Hill. “It was really nice to see Fullerton come together like that.”

Thought it may not have reached professional sports championship parade levels, blue and yellow confetti rained down on the team, and the players even signed autographs for young fans who brought hats and balls.

“I felt more nervous signing than I did at the [final] game,” Staggs said. “Just so many people knowing your name, knowing what you did, made me realize that we were world champions. We all felt like big leaguers at that point.”

Bender and Yang said they may not have felt like the Boston Red Sox players when Boston celebrated the World Series championship last year with its own parade, but the boys got a glimpse of what these players experience when meeting fans.

 “It is nice being celebrated by a parade but we know that we are still very far away from being anything like them,” Yang said.

The four will have until the spring season to put all the glitz aside and focus on what they can contribute to the Lancers’ baseball season. And though all four freshmen described their title run and celebration a “once-in-a-lifetime experience,” they are hopeful for a “twice-in-a-lifetime experience” by being on a CIF-winning team by their senior year if not earlier.

“I never thought it possible for a team from a small city to win a world title,” Yang said. “I hope to help [the SH team] succeed during the season and hopefully win a league title.”