PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Youth baseball is about to give the local economy a home run when Washington, Pennsylvania, hosts the PONY League Championships next month, bringing more than $1 million into the county.
Youth baseball is part of growing up.
For youngsters who want to play during their middle school years, PONY League baseball has been there for more than 60 years. But did you know PONY began in Washington, Pennsylvania?
“A group of business and community leaders here in Washington founded a program to take those kids from 12 until they started their high school baseball career, and that age group was 13 and 14,” Abe Key, president and CEO of PONY, said.
Now with girls’ softball and champion baseball for youth with disabilities, the words behind PONY says it all.
“Protect Our Nation’s Youth,” Key said.
From its roots in western Pennsylvania, Key told KDKA’s Jon Delano it’s grown to more than half a million youngsters in 33 countries.
“We’re in Asia, Europe, South and Central America, Southeast Asia,” Key said. “So it’s grown quite a bit since those early days.”
In August, 10 teams from around the world will compete at the Lew Hays Field in Washington for the World Series championship.
“Some of the magic of 14-year-old kids speaking totally different languages, but being able to laugh with one another — it’s a universal language,” World Series Tournaments chairman Bob Gregg said. “Baseball and laughter, it’s really a neat thing to see happen.”
It’s been a long time since a local Pittsburgh team has won the PONY League World Series championship. Back in 1954, Monongahela won. Then in 1955, Washington, Pennsylvania, won. But nobody local has won since.
Hope springs eternal for this year. A local team is guaranteed a slot in these playoffs, but not a win.
Still, the region gets an economic victory no matter what.
“Tourism is a big business for Washington County, to the tune of almost $700 million in economic impact in 2012,” said J.R. Shaw, executive vice president for tourism for the Washington County Chamber of Commerce. “The PONY League World Series contributes over a million dollars to that figure.”
All games are open to the public, and the final championship will be broadcast on KDKA’s sister station, the CW.