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.”
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