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Pony Baseball, the "other" kid baseball league

Updated on September 10, 2014

Pony Baseball is not Little League

When people think of youth baseball, the first thing that comes to mind is Little League. There is another youth baseball league called Pony. Pony stands for "Protect our Nation's Youth".

Celebrating their 60th year in 2011, Pony Baseball began in Washington, PA in the summer of 1951. It is a great organization to be involved in and each district has their own directors. We are a very small league in a very big pond but our children enjoy the same perks as the really big leagues.

From their website, this is what I consider to be their mission statement:

"The PONY baseball program was created for all players to be able to participate in baseball. We want to Protect Our Nation's Youth as they grow into young men and women and leaders of tomorrow. PONY is a community based program for everyone in the family to enjoy."

There are some very big differences between Pony and Little League. While both provide a great baseball experience for children, I have come to the conclusion that Pony is more kid-friendly.

The patch shown here is available in the League's store. http://www.pony.org/home/default.asp

Pony versus Little League - Age breakdown

I personally prefer the age breakdown in the Pony League. At the Mustang age, the younger children are far less mature than the children in the Bronco division. This difference is intimidating to a 9-yr-old players, not only in maturity but in size. The 12-yr-old boys are much bigger and stronger. Their skill level at this age is much greater.


Age Breakdown - The "U" stands for under.

Pony
Little League
4U - Foal (Mini T-Ball)
4-6 - Tee Ball, coach or machine pitch
6U - Shetland (T-Ball)
7-8 - Tee Ball: Minor League
8U - Pinto
9-12 - Minor League:Major League
10U - Mustang
13-14 Junior League: Senior League
12U - Bronco
14-16: Senior League
14U - Pony
16-18: Big League
19U - Colt
 

Scaled diamonds and pitching distances differ too

The Pony League has done extensive research on the abilities of the ages in each group. The diamonds are scaled to provide the optimum distances within the physical capabilities of the children. Pony also allows children in the Mustang Division to lead off and steal bases. The base and pitching dimensions for both leagues are in the table below.

I don't claim to have this completely correct. Pony and Little League update their rules annually and although I try to keep up, I don't always succeed.

Base and pitching distance

Pony League
Little League
Foal T-Ball - 50 foot bases - No live pitching
4-6 Tee Ball - 60 foot bases - No live pitching
Shetland - 50 foot bases - 38 feet pitching
7-11 Minor League - 60 foot bases - 46 feet pitching
Pinto - 50 foot bases - 38 feet pitching
9-10 Major League - 60 foot bases - 46 feet pitching
Mustang - 60 foot bases - 44 feet pitching
11-12 Major League - 60 foot bases - 46 feet pitching
Bronco - 70 foot bases - 48 feet pitching
11-13 Intermediate League - 90 foot bases - 60 foot 6 inch pitching
Pony - 80 foot bases - 54 feet pitching
12-14 Junior League - 90 foot bases - 6 foot 6 inches pitching
Colt - 90 foot bases - 60 feet 6 inches pitching
13-16 Senior League - 90 foot bases - 60 foot 6 inches pitching
 
15-18 Big League - 90 foot bases - 60 foot 6 inches pitching

Foal - 3 and 4 year olds

Cutest and most fun of all the teams to watch. The picture shows two of our future major league players. These children hit from a "T". Children are taught to run the bases, make catches and throw the ball. The rules are not strictly enforced as the thought is that they just need to have fun. The games are no longer than 30 minutes. Parents must be on the field with their child but are not allowed to impede the play.

Shetland team

Shetland

Basic rules - each league has some leeway in what they allow

The is the division where the children learn the basic skills.

Games are 5 innings or 1 hr and 15 minutes, whichever comes first.

These games are umpired and the home team is responsible for supplying the umpire.

In Shetland, bunting is not allowed.

Any ball that is batted that does not go more than ten feet from the plate is considered a foul.

Double and triple plays are not allowed.

Players must keep one foot on the base until the next player hits the ball. Players can't lead-off.

12 players are allowed on the field, 6 infield and 6 outfield.

Players must rotate to all positions during the game and play at least two inning infield.

3rd base is the home team side.

No sliding is allowed.

All players must bat.

Base runners can only advance one base on a hit unless it reaches the outfield and the child can take two bases. They are not allowed to run on an overthrow.

The inning is over if there are three outs or five runs have come in.

Coaches are allowed on the field to help teach defensive moves.

Full uniforms are required on the field, including hats.

Tee's for batting

JUGS Hit Like a Pro Hitting Tee
JUGS Hit Like a Pro Hitting Tee

This is the standard hitting "Tee" for the Foal and Shetland divisions. It is adjustable for the height of the hitter. They are pretty substantial and hold up to a lot of abuse. In both Pony and Little League, the youngest children are required to hit off the Tee.

 

Pinto - 7 and 8 year olds

Cute kid at 1st base. Of course he's mine.

At this level, the leagues defer to the Pony League rules and regulations. However, each league can override some of the rules. For instance, our league is allowing the children to slide. All of the other leagues in our division already allow it and our children were lacking in that skill.

The inning is over when there are 3 outs or 5 runs have scored.

Games will be six innings.

The home team is the one closest to the third base.

Coaches may only be in the coaching boxes when their teams are up at bat.

Home team is responsible for keeping score.

Coaches must provide a line-up and notify the scorekeeper of any changes.

All players present at the start of the game will be included on the line-up.

Injured players can be removed from the line-up without a penalty.

Batters will be allowed 5 pitches from the pitching machine.

Bunting is not allowed.

If a ball is hit and an infielder holds it up, the play is stopped. Any running beyond the halfway mark between the bases is allowed to continue to the next base.

Four outfields are allowed.

Pitchers must stand to the side of the pitching machine.

Full uniforms are required on the field.

All batters and base runners must wear helmets.

Metal cleats are not allowed.

Sliding is allowed.

Pitching machine

Louisville Slugger UPM 45 Blue Flame Pitching Machine
Louisville Slugger UPM 45 Blue Flame Pitching Machine

New rules will require batters hit from a pitching machine instead of coach pitch for Shetland and Pinto players. It appears that our coaches are hitting the kids instead of the kids hitting the ball. It is also because the kids are not swinging correctly as they try to hit the higher balls thrown by the coaches.

 

Mustang - 10 and under - Yep, my kid, now as catcher in the Mustang division

Pony baseball catcher
Pony baseball catcher

The rules in Mustang suspend those on the lower divisions. Sliding is allowed, bunting is allowed and leading off is allowed. Games are 7 innings or 1 hour and 45 minutes.

The entire line-up must bat.

All players will play one inning in the infield.

4 players are allowed in the outfield.

No pitcher is allowed to pitch for more than two innings.

No batting practice is allowed on the field before the game.

Full uniforms are required on the field.

The league has full discretion to remove a coach, manager or player who yells at an umpire.

If a parent yells at an umpire, they will be asked to stop. If they are spoken to a 2nd time, they will be removed from the ball park.

Metal spikes are prohibited.

Pony approved products - Pony has very specific requirements for the equipment used in their league.

Before a league or a parent buys a baseball product, it must be one approved by the league. Equipment has gotten safer due to the youth baseball leagues as they continue to strive for the best equipment.

MacGregor Youth 75CY Official Pony League Baseball (One Dozen)
MacGregor Youth 75CY Official Pony League Baseball (One Dozen)

Heaven forbid you have the wrong baseball. Pony only approves certain brands.

 

Bronco

Bronco - 12 and under

My kid at bat

These closely follow the Pony League requirements but each league may make changes.

Runners may not collide with a fielder to knock the ball out of the glove.

Pitcher cannot throw curve balls.

Pitchers may intentionally walk a batter.

The dropped third strike is still in effect.

No limit on how many batters can bat in an inning.

All batters must bat in the assigned order.

No player can be added to the lineup after the original lineup has batted.

Players must play at least three innings.

Metal spikes are not allowed.

Pitchers cannot pitch more than four innings over two consecutive day.

Baseball is about fun

Baseball is a great game for kids to play. They learn to be a team and to be good sports. It they are not having fun and they are playing on a Pony League, contact the District Commissioner. The Pony League is all about the kids having a great time.

For boys only - Girls, cover your eyes

Adult XL Baseball/Softball Ventilated Padded Thigh and Buttocks Sliding Shorts with Flex Cup (Extra Protection for Youth Little League to Professional Players)
Adult XL Baseball/Softball Ventilated Padded Thigh and Buttocks Sliding Shorts with Flex Cup (Extra Protection for Youth Little League to Professional Players)

If your child is playing for the first time and on a division that requires that the boys wear an athletic supporter, it can be confusing. The athletic supporter with straps is OK, but tends to be uncomfortable, especially in the leg area where the straps wrap around. The brief supporter is the same as underwear and may be the most comfortable. The longer leg support system is OK but does not support the cup as securely as the brief.

Side note - This is the age where you see all the boys trying to make the cup more comfortable. This is where it starts.

 

2014 Pony Division - Before he broke his leg. Be careful when warming up for games!

Pony and Colt rules don't change much

Most kids hit the Pony age in Junior High but many of the Colt age kids play high school baseball. Most high schools do not allow children to play in Pony or Little League during their baseball season (it has something to do with their CIF eligibility). However, we still have teams for those who are not interested in high school baseball. The rules are very close to Major League Baseball so will not be detailed here.

Our 2014 Pony team. The one with crutches is mine.

Play ball! - or leave a comment

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    • hayleylou lm profile image

      hayleylou lm 6 years ago

      I used to love Rounders as a kid which was sort of similar :)

    • rlivermore profile image

      rlivermore 6 years ago

      This brings back memories of my growing up years. I played bobby sox softball and my brothers were both in little league baseball.

    • profile image

      GiftsBonanza 6 years ago

      I really like that it is all about fun!

    • profile image

      ohcaroline 6 years ago

      This was very interesting. I didn't know that "PONY" was an acronym. You did an excellent job and presented a lot of information.

    • LissaKlar LM profile image

      LissaKlar LM 6 years ago

      I've heard about PONY baseball. This was very informative!

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 6 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      This looks like fun for the young children.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image

      Melody Lassalle 6 years ago from California

      I grew up around Little League, but I've never heard of Pony Baseball. I'm glad to know there are more opportunities for kids to play baseball. Thanks for the information.

    • profile image

      tssfacts 6 years ago

      I have heard of the term Pony Baseball but never really knew what it was. Now I do. Great article. It's a great stepping stone for other leagues.

    • CrossCreations profile image

      Carolan Ross 6 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Having two sons, little league baseball was a huge piece of my past...yet I really never knew of the pony baseball league, til now. Great introduction & great lens.

    • Amy Fricano profile image

      Amy Fricano 6 years ago from WNY

      i sure learned something new. My kids started with T ball. Thanks!

    • profile image

      SnoopyGirl1 6 years ago

      This is my first time hearing about Pony Baseball. It sounds like a great league for kids. Thanks for sharing!

    • dwnovacek profile image

      dwnovacek 6 years ago

      This is the first I've heard of Pony baseball. I agree that the age brackets are much better than that for Little League. Kids change so fast at that age that a two year age difference can be like night and day. Thank you for this lens, and Angel Blessings to you!

    • DecoratingEvents profile image

      DecoratingEvents 6 years ago

      Spreading *Cupid Kisses* on Valentine's Day!

    • smithlights profile image

      smithlights 5 years ago

      Great lens. My brother is 10 and plays Pony baseball, but I never knew what the difference was between LL and Pony. Thanks!

    • tutor1235 lm profile image

      tutor1235 lm 5 years ago

      Wow, my cousins always played pony baseball when I was little (no girls allowed at all back then) and I always wondered what the differences were between them and the little league my brother played. Thanks for an informative lens!

    • profile image

      HandmadeBaseballGloves 5 years ago

      Iâve been a baseball fan for decades and never heard of pony baseball. Love the site.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Great lens! Very informative breakdown of all the age divisions in Pony Baseball.

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 4 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      For two years I coached for a school team (boys and girls Gr.7-9). That was fun! The third year the Recreation Center couldn't find a coach so they asked me if I would consider coaching their team also. Well, I did it! It wasn't easy though as it rained a lot during the season and I had to scramble for fields as there were other teams from other schools who also needed the regulation fields to play their games. We moved from that town the next year and I've wondered how they managed since.

      I enjoyed this lens .. it brought back many memories. Angel blessings**

    • profile image

      poutine 4 years ago

      First time I hear about the pony baseball league. That's a great concept.

    • profile image

      Baseball Parent 22 months ago

      Nice write up, but I wanted to add a thing or two as we have sons who have played in both PONY and Little League... sometimes even in the same season and they have become a lot more similar than most folks think. Little is changing it's age cutoff to calendar year as of the 2015 season for all kids born after 2009, but other than that and the fact that kids can lead off... they have really more or less become the same in Southern California anyway... smaller field sizes for the little ones, pitching at age 8, more or less all the same rules and both leagues absolutely claim to be all about FUN and they should be at this age.

      So many of the strong players play on travel teams as well, which all more or less use the same rules as PONY as well so it really just comes down to whichever league you like, your kids like, your kid's friends are in, etc. and regardless of which league you go with... remember it is all about FUN and should any of these kids make it on to the next level I can assure you that no one can tell which league they played in as a youth.

      As for better coaching... that all comes down to the coaches in your league. We have had amazing coaches in both and we have had less amazing coaches in both.

      Play Ball!!!

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