PONY World Series in search of area teams to compete

WASHINGTON, Pa. – The Little League World Series is a global happening. It plays out every August in Williamsport, Pa.

Another international youth baseball event is staged each summer much closer to the Ohio Valley. The PONY World Series calls Washington, Pa. home, less than a 30-minute drive from Wheeling.

The first PONY World Series took place in 1952. This year’s event will be staged Aug. 9-15.

Abe Key is president and CEO of PONY Baseball. He was in my office this past week to start pubbing the World Series. He was joined by Carson Fox, PONY’s multi-media manager.

“We have more than 30,000 teams throughout the United States and more than 50 other countries. We have more than 500,000 annual participants,” Key said. “One of our marquee events is the annual 14-and-under PONY League World Series each August at Lew Hays Pony Field in Washington Park.

“Last year Chinese Taipei won the championship, beating Long Beach. A lot of major league greats have played in this event, including reigning National League MVP Christian Stephen Yelich,” he added. “The PONY World Series is a great boost to the area economy.”

While the PONY World Series is international in scope, Key is looking to add local flavor to the event. That was a big reason for his visit to the Ohio Valley Monday.

Wheeling-area and Ohio Valley teams have never advanced to the World Series in nearby Washington, Pa. That is because they have never attempted to qualify.

That is something Key and Fox are working to change.

“PONY has been an integral part of the baseball culture in the Ohio Valley since the early 1950s. With the annual PONY League World Series just up the road in Washington, Pa.” Key said. “It is our goal to re-engage the youth baseball leadership in the greater Wheeling area and solicit their participation in PONY sanctioned tournament play with the ultimate goal of participating in the Pony League World Series.

“The Ohio Valley has a very rich tradition of baseball excellence and we feel there is a great opportunity to organize a team or teams to participate in tournament competition as the host area representative,” he added. “Teams representing the host area recently have been Youngstown, Johnstown, Morgantown, Canonsburg, Cranberry Township, Pa., Peters Township, Pa. and Moon Township, Pa. Wheeling participated in the 1977 Bronco League (12U) World Series in Washington, Pa.”

Ten teams qualify for the World Series, four being international – the Mexico Zone, Caribbean Zone, European Zone and Asia Pacific Zone. The field is rounded out by American squads, including one host team for the local area.

“We met with Jesse Mestrovic (director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Wheeling) and wanted to share our story and see if we could solicit their support for organizing events in Wheeling in the near future,” Key said. “The meeting was very successful. This may also allow us to spread into other geographic locations in the region that might want to participate.

“Everyone has been very supportive and we want everyone to know about the opportunity and then work hard to make sure the experience is successful,” he added. “The teams and league register every year, they just don?t take advantage of the opportunity.”

BUBBA’S BITS

FORMER ST. John Central pitching star Hannah Absalom enjoyed a sparkling senior season at Fairmont State. The Martins Ferry native was named first-team All-Mountain East Conference after scripting a 16-7 record with a 1.37 ERA to go with 122 strikeouts. Absalom has etched her name in the Falcons’ career record book with 522 innings pitched (second), 53 complete games (second), 42 wins (fourth) and 332 strikeouts (fifth).

KUDOS GO out to Steubenville High football coaching legend Reno Saccoccia and several of his gridders for assisting with the Special Olympics last weekend. It was a class gesture for a very special event.

KATRINA WIERZBICKI is enjoying a tremendous season for the Otterbein College softball team. The talented sophomore rose to the occasion last weekend, powering the Cardinals to a 13-7 win over Ohio Northern in the OAC Tournament title game. She drilled a three-run homer to go with a two-run single, propelling Otterbein, 24-15, to an NCAA Tournament berth. For the season, she is hitting .341 with four homers and 29 RBI. he has started all 39 games this spring. She is the daughter of Ted and MaLinda (Galich) Wierzbicki. Ted is a former all-Ohio lineman at Bridgeport and successful head prep football coach. MaLinda, meanwhile, was a record-setting sprinter at St. John Central.

GOLF’S SECOND major plays out this week. I nailed my Masters prediction when Tiger Woods delivered. My pick for the PGA is Rory McIlroy.

TY KILDOW has received a special honor as a member of the Waynesburg University baseball team. The former Union Local standout, now a frosh infielder with the Yellow Jackets, was selected as the team’s Heart & Hustle Award recipient.

THE 73RD Victory Awards Dinner again proved a major success last Sunday in Charleston. Wheeling Central’s grid standout Adam Murray was honored with two special awards presented by Wheeling Sports Editor Josh Strope. One disappointment was the absence of Randy Moss. The NFL great was inducted into the group’s Hall of Fame.

THE WVU Coaches Caravan proved a big hit once again Monday at River City in Wheeling. A reported crowd of 296 was in attendance, breaking last year’s mark of 231. New Mountaineer grid coach Neal Brown was a big reason for the record crowd.

YOUNGSTOWN STATE is experiencing a rough baseball spring. The Penguins entered weekend play with a 12-34 mark. Blaze Glenn, however, has been a Penguin positive. The former Toronto High three-sport star has started all 46 games, hitting .259 with nine home runs and 42 RBI. He also has stolen 17 bases.

WISHING ALL mothers a special day.

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