Excitement builds for return of PONY League World Series

Tuesday, July 20, 2021 | 8:43 PM

In another indication that pre-pandemic normalcy is making its return, directors of PONY League baseball unveiled plans Tuesday for the organization’s 69th World Series.

The eight-team double-elimination tournament is set for Aug. 13-18 at Lew Hays PONY Field in Washington, Pa., next door to Washington Wild Things Park. The series was canceled last year due to the covid-19 pandemic. A 10-team tournament was hoped for, but travel restrictions involving teams representing Europe, Mexico and Asia reduced the 2021 tournament field.

That means Taipei City from Chinese Taipei won’t be able to defend its 2019 title.

“We only had limited play last year,” said PONY President Abe Key. “Some kids got to see a partial or full season in the Southern Hemisphere such as Australia for the 2020 season.”

One entrant has been determined already with Bayamon, Puerto Rico capturing its eighth World Series berth in early July. The 1995 title winners will be visiting Washington for the first time since 2013.

Washington County will be providing a host team from the winners of Founders League, consisting of teams from the Washington, Trinity, Canon-McMillan, Bentworth, McGuffey and Chartiers-Houston school districts.

Teams surviving tournaments in the North, East, South and West U.S. zones will be sending a team, while the other two teams will come from within a 90-mile radius of Washington. Teams from that radius will engage in a seven-team double-elimination tourney from July 29-Aug. 2. The two finalists advance to the PONY World Series.

Though planning for the Series comeback from the pandemic was hampered by previous sponsors being unable to continue participation because of economic conditions, the key sponsor still on board is Dick’s Sporting Goods. Dick’s has been the title sponsor since 2015.

“Dick’s has been a great partner with the PONY World Series,” said Tournaments, Inc. President Nathan Voytek. “Their commitment to continue as name and title sponsor has opened up opportunities to expand what we do at and around the event.”

One of those is the return of the 10-by-17-foot video board to be operated by Pikewood Sports. The operation will provide player photos, game replays, line scores, highlights and special messages.

Forty businesses are listed as premier sponsors and 44 more as major sponsors.

Jeff Kotula, president of the Washington County Tourism Promotion Agency, said that $4 million dollars of economic activity will directly be attributed to the Series. Activity will include hotel room stays, restaurant patronage and general shopping in the area.

Five of the Series games will be televised live by AT&T SportsNet and three more will have a delayed broadcast, fitting around the schedule of Pirates games on the regional channel. WJPA Radio 1450 AM will also carry the games.

Some players have used the World Series as a springboard to a pro career. Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich, 2018 National League MVP, played on the 2006 PONY runner-up from Thousand Oaks, Calif., and Chase De Jong, Pirates starter Monday night in Arizona, was the winning pitcher for Long Beach, Calif., in the 2008 championship game.

PONY League baseball is for 13- and 14-year-old boys. The league has 80-foot base distances and a 54-foot pitching distance. Founded in 1951 by Hays, PONY is an acronym for Protect Our Nation’s Youth.

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