There are four major differences PONY offers:
1. Pitching machine for younger ages
2. Leadoffs and steals for older ages
3. Increasingly larger field sizes as players move up in age
4. Division age grouping of 2 years
The first key difference is at ages 7-8 (Pinto) -- which is one of the most popular participating ages in all of youth baseball. NCYB (and PONY in general) features a pitching machine for the full season – as opposed to player-pitch as is often the practice in Little League.
Any player/parent who has seen a Little League game at this age level no doubt has suffered through the walk-filled boredom that results from kids who don’t have the physical ability to either consistently throw or hit live pitching.
Pitchers too often hurt their arms and shatter confidence by pitching at such an early age. Hitters don’t develop because they rarely see hittable balls and are rightly worried about being hit themselves. Base-running skills don’t develop because there are so few base-runners who advance off a hit. And defensive skills don’t improve because the ball is so seldom put into play.
All this too often results in a complete lack of on-field action – which ultimately concludes with players and families dropping out of baseball because they consider it too boring.
By contrast, Pinto is regarded by many as the most exciting division of PONY because of the fast-paced action, and the dramatic improvement of all players over the course of the season in all phases of the game. This is all due to a consistent ball being pitched by the machine. Many families move from Little League to PONY just for this reason.
The second major distinction comes at the next level up with ages 9-10 (Mustang). By this point, players are physically and emotionally mature enough to be introduced to live pitching. Unlike Little League though, PONY allows leadoffs and steals. This introduces additional nuances to the game just as you see in the big leagues.
For example, pitchers learn how to pitch from the wind-up and stretch, holding runners on bases. Catchers learn how to throw out potential base stealers. Base-runners learn proper lead-offs and other base running techniques.
The third significant difference is that as players move up from one division to the next, the base path distances increase. Little League maintains the same distances not increasing the size of the infield as the players get older and stronger. Therefore the infield never grows larger than 60’ between the bases. For comparison, freshman high school baseball up through the major leagues features 90’ base paths.
PONY believes in graduating up in field size as players get older.
The fourth difference is division age. Little League often has divisions with an age span of 3 years. Pony divisions are comprised of players with a 2 year age difference. With the tighter age grouping in the division, we believe that it is a safer environment for all the players. It also adds more parity to the teams and idividual players. The result is a more consistent competitive environment and this translates to more fun, confidence and enjoyment for the players.