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Pony Baseball, the "other" kid baseball league
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.