PONY Baseball and Softball is a non-profit organization with headquarters in Washington, Pennsylvania. Started in 1951, PONY organizes youth baseball and softball leagues and tournaments, as over 500,000 players annually play PONY in over 4,000 leagues throughout the United States and over 40 countries world-wide. Membership is open to children from age 4 to 23 and the leagues are organized in two-year age brackets with "an-under" programs.
Inception of the league
PONY Baseball and Softball began with organization of the Pony League in Washington, Pennsylvania in the summer of 1951. This was a transition league for 13 year-old and 14 year-old players designed to take graduates of Little League Baseball from that diamond to the regulation-sized diamond. Growth of Pony League, primarily by word of mouth, was rapid, and by the end of the second season, 1952, the original six teams in Washington were joined by 505 others in 106 leagues around the country. A national tournament was conducted, and the first Pony League World Series was held that year. San Antonio, Texas defeated Brockton, Massachusetts 2–1 in the Championship Game.
Lew Hays, among the founders of the Pony League, was named Commissioner of the new league when it was incorporated for national organization in early 1953, and Hays held that post until 1964 when he was named President.
In 1953, John Laslo, long time Mayor of Martins Ferry, Ohio, visited with Hays and discussed organization of a league similar to Pony League for 15 year-old and 16 year-old players. The purpose was to permit players in this age bracket to compete with players of like experience in their first years on the regulation diamond.
Laslo guided the development of Colt League, and in late 1959, Pony League and Colt League were merged into a single organization.
Growth of the league
Bronco League, for 11 year-old and 12 year-old players, was organized in 1961 to permit players of this age to play the complete game of baseball. With Colt League using the regulation diamond with 90 foot base paths, Pony League uses a diamond with 80 base paths as a transition between the regulation diamond and the 70 foot diamond used in Bronco League.
In 1970 the Mustang League was developed in Fort Worth, Texas using a diamond with 60 foot base paths, to provide an organizational structure for leagues for beginning players, 9 and 10 year-olds. For communities using players of 7 and 8 years of age, rules and emblems were developed for Pinto League, a very elementary form of baseball.
Thorobred League was organized in the Tampa, Florida area and became a part of the PONY Baseball family in 1973 to provide playing opportunity for those players from 17 through 20 years of age who have not entered professional play and who retain a desire to participate in a community baseball program.
In 1977, Thorobred League age limits were expanded to include 21 year-old age players, and Palomino League was organized for players 17 and 18.
Shetland League, an instructional program for 5 and 6-year-olds, was formally adopted by PONY for the 1990 season with rules based on the experiences of a number of league organizations that had conducted play in this age group for several years.
While girls are permitted to play in any of the PONY Baseball leagues, recognizing that most girls preferred to compete in leagues with other girls, PONY Baseball provided Softball for Girls leagues in 1976. Colt League provides for girls 16-and-under and Bronco League for those 12-and-under. In communities where sufficient players are available, the Colt League may consist of players 15 and 16, and a Pony League used for those 13 and 14. Both Pony and Colt softball leagues used a regulation softball diamond with 60 foot base paths in fast pitch.
In like manner, if there are enough players, the Bronco League may be limited to players of 11 and 12 years of age and Mustang League used for those 10-and-under. These leagues for younger girls use a softball diamond with a 50 foot base path. Older girls, 17 and 18, play in the Palomino League on the 65 foot diamond in slowpitch.
In 1999, the emblems for all leagues were changed to a common emblem with a new pony head and the name of each league under it.
The Name PONY Baseball Inc. is the corporate name under which Shetland League, Pinto League, Mustang League, Bronco League, Pony League, Colt League and Palomino League are operated in baseball and softball.
PONY is taken from the first letters of each word in the slogan, "Protect Our Nation's Youth."
Originally suggested by boys at the Y.M.C.A. in Washington, Pennsylvania, the slogan was "Protect Our Neighborhood Youth," and the change to "Nation's" youth was made after the original Washington Pony League developed into a national program.
Joe Brown (1953–1964)
The First President Joe E. Brown, comedian, acrobat, actor, a man whose career spanned the entertainment world from vaudeville and the silent movies, through the circus, fairs and carnivals to the Broadway stage and radio and television, became the first president of Pony League when the organization was incorporated in 1953. He continued in the post until late 1964 when he retired.
A one-time minor league player, Brown was later part owner of the Kansas City Blues and, in 1953, did pre-game and post-game radio interviews for the New York Yankees. He is the father of Joe L. Brown, former general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates and was instrumental in the settling of the Dodgers at Los Angeles after their move from Brooklyn.
Likable and gregarious, Brown traveled many thousands of miles visiting G.I.s in far sections of the globe during World War II and later traveled additional thousands of miles telling the story of PONY Baseball hoping to interest adults in organizing baseball programs for young people.
Lew Hays (1964–1980)
One of the group who founded the original Washington Pony League, and recognized as the principal founder of PONY Baseball/ Softball, Inc. as a national and international youth baseball organization, is Lewis W. Hays.
At the time of the founding of Pony League, Hays was Sports Editor of The Reporter newspaper, published by the Observer Publishing Company of Washington. Having served the office of Commissioner on a volunteer basis, while holding down his regular duties as sports editor since 1951, he was granted a leave of absence by the Observer Company in 1954 to assume leadership of Pony League on a full time basis.
For thirty years, until his retirement in October 1980, Hays was the chief administrator of Pony League and later of PONY Baseball Inc. He served as Commissioner until 1964, when, following the retirement of Joe E. Brown, he became President.
The United States Baseball Federation, (now USA Baseball), an organization encompassing all amateur baseball in the United States, selected Hays as its Chairman of the Board of Directors from 1976 through 1993. In that position, he served as a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee and helped to have baseball included as a sport in the Olympic Games.
When he retired, Hays was elected to a life membership on the Board of Directors of PONY Baseball/Softball, Inc. Hays passed away in 1994.
Roy Gillespie (1980–1995)
Abraham Key (1995–present)
A one-time player in the Washington, Pennsylvania Pony and Colt Leagues, Abraham Key assumed the Presidency of PONY Baseball and Softball in January, 1995. He joined the staff on a full-time basis after graduating from West Virginia University's School of Journalism and School of Business in 1981. He had worked five years as a part-time employee while in high school and college. Key was elected to the PONY Baseball and Softball Wall of Fame in November 1986.
In addition to his responsibilities at PONY, Key has served on the USA Baseball Board of Directors since 1995 and was a member of the Executive Committee as Vice President - Treasurer (2000-2008). He served as the United States delegate for USA Baseball at the 2013 International Baseball Federation (IBAF) Congress in Tokyo, Japan.
Key has been active in the Confederation of European Basbeall (CEB), Confederation of Pan American Baseball (COPABE) and International Baseball Federation (IBAF) in recent years. Key received a Meritorious Service Medal from IBAF President Riccardo Fraccari, Italy, in 2013 for his service to international youth baseball and softball.
He also a 25-year member of the American Baseball Coaches Association and has served on their Executive Committee (1999-2004) and the Board of Directors (2002-2004). He was awarded the ABCA Meritorious Service Award in 2006 for his contributions to amateur baseball.
He has served on the Amateur Softball Association (USA Softball) National Council since 2002.
He was a board member and the treasurer of the National Council of Youth Sports (1992–2002), an organization of full-time professional staff workers in amateur, non-profit organizations concerned with development, enhancement and support of youth sports activities. He served on the Board of Directors for the Major Youth Baseball Alliance (2008–2012).
Pony has occupied a new headquarters facility since 2005 in Washington, Pennsylvania.
Origin of name
Children at the Washington, Pennsylvania YMCA named the organization PONY, which stood for "Protect Our Neighborhood Youth." This later became "Protect Our Nation's Youth."
Age divisionsSee footnote
All of PONY's age divisions are "and-under programs," meaning that a younger player can play up one age division, if he or she so chooses.
In 2009, the PONY Baseball and Softball International board of directors formed a new division—the Champions League—for children with special needs.
United StatesSee footnote
Intra-zone tournamentsSee footnote
World Series Events
The newest PONY World Series event, the first Mustang-9 World Series was held in Walnut, California and won by Santa Clarita, California in 2014. In the three years the event has been held, the tournament has hosted eight teams featured from each of PONY's domestic United States Zones, as well as the Asia-Pacific, Caribbean and Mexico Zones. In 2016, Emerald, California dominated play with three, 10-run rule wins and took home the title over Guasave, Mexico 12-0 in the championship game. The state of California has won all three Mustang-9 World Series championships. In 2017, the Mustang-9 World Series is scheduled for July 27-30 at Creekside Park in Walnut.
The first Mustang World Series was held in Irving, Texas and won by host Irving in 1995. As it is currently constructed, it is an eight-team tournament, featuring teams from each of PONY's domestic United States Zones, as well as the Asia-Pacific, Caribbean and Mexico Zones. In 2016, Simi Valley, California took home the title after winning each of its four games by double digits, including a 12-1 win over Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico in the Championship Game. In 2017, the Mustang World Series is scheduled for August 3-6 at Youngsville Sports Complex in Youngsville, Louisiana.
One of PONY's largest leagues in the East Zone, Chesterfield, Virginia has been hosting the Bronco-11 World Series since 2009. As it is currently constructed, it is an eight-team tournament, featuring teams from each of PONY's domestic United States Zones, as well as the Caribbean and Mexico Zones. In 2016, Placentia, California won the championship thanks to a thrilling 3-2 win over Host Richmond, Virginia. In 2017, the Bronco-11 World Series is scheduled for July 27-30 at Harry G. Daniel Park at Ironbridge in Richmond, Virginia.
The third-longest running PONY World Series event has been the Bronco World Series, which has been hosted by 17 different cities in nine different states and two countries, since it began in 1961. As it is currently constructed, it is an eight-team tournament, featuring teams from each of PONY's domestic United States Zones, as well as the Asia-Pacific, Caribbean and Mexico Zones. In 2016, Kaohsiung City, Chinese Taipei defeated Ponce, Puerto Rico 4-0 in the Championship Game. In 2017, the Bronco World Series is scheduled for August 3-6 at Los Alamitos Youth Baseball Complex in Los Alamitos, California.
The first Pony-13 World Series event was held in Chino Hills, California and won by host Chino Hills in 2004. As it is currently constructed, it is an eight-team tournament, featuring teams from each of PONY's domestic United States Zones, as well as the Asia-Pacific, Caribbean and Mexico Zones. In 2016, after coming away with a hard-fought 9-7 win over Hagerstown, Maryland, El Cajon, California swept passed its competition with three double-digit wins, including a 12-0 win over Panama in the Championship Game. In 2017, the Pony-13 World Series is scheduled for July 28-31 at York Field in Whittier, California.
The longest running PONY World Series event, the Pony World Series has called Washington, Pennsylvania home for 54 years. The event traveled to other locations in six different states during the 1960-80s, but it has called Lew Hays Pony Field in Washington Park home each year since 1984. Beginning in 2015, DICK'S Sporting Goods became the Name & Title Sponsor of the event; thus, the tournament is now the DICK'S Sporting Goods Pony World Series. As it is currently constructed, it is a 10-team tournament, featuring teams from each of PONY's domestic United States Zones, as well as the Asia-Pacific, Caribbean, European and Mexico Zones. In 2016, Taipei County, Chinese Taipei won back-to-back Pony World Series championships for the island nation, after defeating Maui, Hawaii 12-2 in the final game. In 2017, the Pony World Series is scheduled for August 11-16 at Lew Hays Pony Field in Washington, Pennsylvania.
The second-longest running PONY World Series event, the Colt World Series is synonymous with Lafayette, Indiana. Down the road from Purdue University, Loeb Stadium in Columbian Park has been the host site of the Colt World Series for 47 out of the last 48 years. Canton, Ohio won the first-ever Colt World Series at Martins Ferry, Ohio in 1953. As it is currently constructed, the tournament features 10 team from each of PONY's domestic United States Zones, as well as the Asia-Pacific, Caribbean, European and Mexico Zones. In 2016, Mexico Zone Champion Tijuana, Baja California narrowly defeated Host Area Hoosier North 6-5 to claim the nation's first-ever Colt World Series title. In 2017, the Colt World Series is scheduled for August 4-9 in Lafayette, Indiana.