By Tamas Mondovics
After a continued decline of membership, internal organizational issues and difficulty to keep up with more competitive brands within the surrounding communities, the newly appointed Eastpoint Little League Board decided it was time for another change.
As a result, last November East Point voted to break ties with Little League and join the Pony Baseball and Softball (PONY), a non-profit organization with headquarters in the Pittsburgh suburb of Washington, Pennsylvania.
Since 1951, PONY has been organizing youth baseball and softball leagues throughout the nation providing membership to children ages 5 to 18 with leagues organized in two-year age brackets.
In the late 1950’s PONY became an international organization and, to date, enjoys its presence in 21 countries.
According to Eastpoint Pony Information Officer Stephen Hall, the new board realized that it needed to take more of a business approach into marketing the league as well as putting a better product on its field, which he said made a difference, but more was needed.
“Our efforts gave us more kids at the park in the fall than we had in the spring,” Hall said, adding that there were other challenges to tackle. “In order to keep our park, we had to increase our numbers, but Little League would not allow us to expand our boundaries to attract players in the Brandon area who are not in Little League boundaries.”
Hall was eager to emphasize that the league’s current goal is to continue to serve the Seffner/Mango community under the new direction and benefits associated with Pony Baseball and Softball.
“We have found many advantages in joining Pony,” Hall said, including real baseball rules as played by Major League Baseball, which allows the child to have an easier transition as they mature into the next level.
Other advantages include better competition from having travel ball teams and a Pony Elite League as well as recreation ball for the less competitive; no forced draft, which allows players to stay together as they progress through different age divisions. Joining the new league also means no boundaries, so players can be drawn from anywhere from within and outside of the county.
The league welcomes travel teams and is in need of coaches and players.
Spring registrations are now underway until Friday, February 19 at the field located at 11609 Clay Pit Rd. in Seffner, or online. The season is scheduled to begin on Saturday, February 20. Residents are encouraged to attend tryouts for one of the eight divisions as well as the league’s special needs players division now held at the park.
For more information or to register, visit www.eastpointpony.com.