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Overview

Division Player's Age (on August 31st) Base Distance (feet) Pitch Distance (feet) Pitcher
Shetland (4) 5 - 6 50 38 Tee, then manual machine pitch arm
Pinto 7 - 8 60 38 Machine (40 mph)
Mustang 9 - 10 60 46 Player
Bronco 11 - 12 70 50 Player
Pony 13 - 14 80 54 Player

 

Allowing players to “play up” a division higher than their league age has been widely discussed both among the NCYB Board, as well as throughout PONY baseball. Only recently has PONY even allowed it, and then only at the discretion of each individual league. On the one hand, there are legitimate concerns about player safety, physical ability, emotional readiness, and dilution of play impacting the entire league.

On the other hand, with the proliferation of year-round baseball there are certain players who are ready to play up a division. Also, some leagues want to encourage those players to continue to play recreational baseball and not resort to year-round travel teams.

Most PONY leagues do not allow players to play up. However, the NCYB Board has adopted specific criteria in which a player is allowed to play up.

NCYB Notification

To become a candidate for playing up a division, the NCYB Player Agent must be notified prior to the season's Player Assessments for evalution of the player as a possible play up candidate.

Candidate Notification

Following the candidate assessment and evaluation for the appropriate division (as described below), the NCYB Player Agent will contact the candidate player's parent/guardian to notify them of the decision.

Shetland (4 year olds)

Parent Participation

Shetland is a division of 5 and 6 year-olds. However, NCYB allows 4 year olds to play ONLY if a parent agrees to be on the coaching staff of the team. That parent does not need to be the manager, but does need to be on the field at all practices and games. This allows the team manager and coaches to focus on their 5 and 6 year old players. The 4 year old's safety and development is ensured by the one-on-one coaching of the parent, with support from the team's manager and coaches (e.g. drill instruction, game play basics, coaching strategy, etc).

Pinto

Because of safety considerations at the Shetland level and ensuring truly beginning players are not overwhelmed by more advanced beginning players, NCYB has a somewhat more liberal evaluation of players to play up to Pinto (compared to older divisions).

Parent Participation

The parent or a designated adult (e.g. extended family member) must agree to be a manager or assistant coach of the team if the candidate player is allowed to play up, attending all practices and games. This is to ensure the player receives individual instruction and does not take away from instruction of other players.

Player Evaluation

In addition to the season Player Assessment, the candidate will be evaluated by the league. The candidate evaluation team will consist of:

  1. NCYB President

  2. NCYB Vice President

  3. NCYB Player Agent

  4. NCYB Pinto Division Representative

Three of the four NCYB league officials must agree that the player meets all of the requirements outlined below. In the event that a family member is one of those four officials, that official will not take part in the process and two of the remaining three must agree the player meets the criteria.

The candidate player will be evaluated against all players in the Pinto division (both 7 and 8 year olds). The successful candidate player will be considered higher than the bottom 33% in emotional, mental, and physical readiness. For example, a league age 6 year old would need to be considered as good or better than one out of every three 7 and 8 year old Pinto players in the following criteria:

  1. Emotional readiness including, but not limited to

    1. Mature enough to be around older players day in and day out
    2. Ability to focus
  2. Mental readiness including, but not limited to

    1. Understanding of the basic rules of the game
  3. Physical ability including, but not limited to

    1. Consistently catch thrown balls
    2. Able to throw the ball in a consistent manner
    3. Able to track and maneuver to fly balls
    4. Shows the ability to be able to hit off a pitching machine

Mustang, Bronco, Pony

Player Assessments

Players wanting to play up during the season must take part in season Player Assessments for both their league age division and the next higher division. This is because the decision will likely not be made on their status until after all player assessments are complete. For example, a league age 8 player must take part in both Pinto (league age division) and Mustang (next higher division) assesments.

Player Evaluation

In addition to the season Player Assessments, the candidate will be evaluated by the league. The candidate evaluation team will consist of:

  1. NCYB President

  2. NCYB Vice President

  3. NCYB Player Agent

  4. League age NCYB Division Representative

  5. Next higher NCYB Division Representative

Four of the five NCYB league officials must agree that the player meets all of the requirements outlined below. In the event that a family member is one of those five officials, that official will not take part in the process and three of the remaining four must agree the player meets the criteria.

The candidate player will be evaluated against the next higher league age pool from their own. For example, a league age 8 player wanting to play Mustang will be evaluated against the pool of all league age 9 players. The candidate player’s comparison to their league age 8 peers will not be considered, nor will they be compared to the pool of league age 10 players. The successful candidate player will be considered higher in the league age pool with respect to emotional, mental, and physical readiness:

  1. Emotional readiness including, but not limited to

    1. Mature enough to be around older players day in and day out
    2. Ability to handle the increased pressure and intensity that comes with play at the next level
    3. Ability to be coached at the next level, specifically, ability to handle and process the direction and feedback provided by coaches
  2. Mental readiness including, but not limited to

    1. Average to above average "baseball IQ" relative to the target division
    2. Understanding the rules of the game
    3. Ability to learn signs
    4. Capacity to quickly learn and apply situational play such as

      1. Lead-offs and steals
      2. Holding runners on and pick-offs
      3. Situational defense
  3. Physical readiness including, but not limited to

    1. Among top eight players in next higher league age pool
    2. Hitting for average
    3. Hitting for power
    4. Baserunning speed
    5. Throwing ability
    6. Fielding ability

Player History

All known elements of the candidate player will be taken into consideration including, but not limited to knowledge of the player through

  • Previous Spring Season participation, if any
  • Previous Fall Season participation, if any
  • Travel Ball experience
  • School experience

All-Star Implications

NCYB does not allow playing up on an all-star team within a division - 7 year olds are only eligible to play on the 7U Pinto all-star team, 9 year olds are only eligible to play on the 9U Mustang all-start team, and 11 year olds are only eligible to play on the 11U Bronco all-star team.

The NCYB Board will consider exceptions for players to play up within a division when a player is in the second year of either Mustang of Bronco AND the player being considered played up in their first year of that division.

Per national PONY rules, any player that has played up a division during the regular season will not be allowed to play down during all-stars. For example, a league age 8 player who plays up to Mustang during the regular season will not be allowed to play down to Pinto for all-stars. This includes if that player is not selected to a Mustang all-star team.

It is important to note that being allowed to play up at the beginning of the season in no way ensures the player will be selected to that all-star team at the end of the season. Therefore, even if allowed to play up, parents and players should carefully weigh all-star implications into the decision process.