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Santa Ana now has both Pony and Little League baseball – which is better?

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Kids in Santa Ana are getting ready for a new season of Little League baseball, but in North Santa Ana they are now split between an upstart Santa Ana Pony League that ousted the Northwest Santa Ana Little League, and the historic Northeast Santa Ana Little League.

As a Little League parent I always dreaded visiting the Northwest Santa Ana Little League.  Many of the parents were too competitive.  My son played at the AA level last year and at one game against a Northwest team the manager of the team was so rude to the umpire that I sought out the Northwest duty officer.  She told me this was none of my business.  I later sent an email to the Northwest board and they blew me off.

So when I heard that the Northwest League was switching to the Pony League I figured, “good riddance!”  But they are cannibalizing kids from our area, as Pony can take kids from anywhere in Santa Ana.  However NESALL is fielding teams at every level this year and our T-ball teams have really exploded, which bodes well for the future of Little League baseball in Northeast Santa Ana.

So why did the Northwest parents switch to Pony?  According to a Santa Ana Pony press release:

Carlos Nava, president of SANWLL, its board members and several coaches spearheaded the transition of SANWLL to Santa Ana Pony Baseball after noticing a significant drop off in the number of youth baseball players and teams throughout all Santa Ana leagues. With the participation drop off, all Santa Ana little leagues are smaller, making the teams less competitive when competing against teams from surrounding cities. The dwindling numbers are principally due to the number of Santa Ana youth leaving to play Pony and/or travel ball in surrounding cities such as Irvine, Tustin, Garden Grove and Fountain Valley. Pony baseball uses rules which more closely resemble Major League Baseball and which help build and develop players to have a more comprehensive understanding of the game, giving players the tools to compete and increasing their chances to play at high school and college levels. Most importantly, Santa Ana Pony Baseball will help retain players enjoying the sport within Santa Ana. Players and parents will now be able to choose between Pony and Little League to find a better fit for their child.


I don’t agree with Pony’s contentions.  The poor economy has had more to do with kids quitting Little League than anything else.  And we are now competing with soccer and basketball leagues as well as football and flag football.  Kids have a lot of options today.  Some kids prefer faster sports.

Should little kids start off with Major League baseball rules from the start?  I don’t think so.  Pony starts teaching Major League style baseball rules at the age of 9 years old versus Little League that typically starts at 13 years old.  According to one website I found, Pony lets kids pitch that are as young as 7.  That’s not right!

Little League is all about teaching the kids and having fun.  Pony is way too serious in my opinion.  The attitude I saw last year at the Northwest league was “win at all costs.”  That is not that baseball for kids should be about.

I wish the Pony League luck but my son is staying at NESALL.  Our Opening Day is coming up on March 9 – and we can’t wait!  Click here to like NESALL on Facebook.

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22 Comments  comments 

22 Responses

  1. Speak Softly

    Thank you Art for posting on this topic. I’d like to hear from parents on both sides of this issue to know which one is best for kids from Santa Ana. Which league does a better job of teaching young Latino players?

    • Both leagues teach kids to play baseball but we also teach them the value of good sportsmanship at the Little League.

      • Baseball Mom

        Your comment is absolutely the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. Both leagues show good sportsmanship. Just goes to show you how short-sided some people can be.

        • Again, that is NOT what I saw at the Northwest games last year. And when I complained to the Northwest board member on duty she blew me off as did your entire board when I emailed them.

          Leagues that tolerate the mistreatment of umpires, who are volunteers, should not be supported by the community. I can only hope that now that your league is affiliated with Pony you will improve in this regard, but somehow I doubt that.

          • Baseball Mom

            There are 3 sides to every story. Your side, their side and truth to what really happen. Your point of view is only one side of the equation. Hundreds of people have had great experiences at Northwest.

          • We didn’t and we’re glad not to have to play there any more.

  2. Education First!

    I also think Little League teaches better sportsmanship.

  3. cook

    Well run organizations excel in there programs and draw plenty of players regardless of the economy.

    Poorly run organizations fail, and then hop around to hide the overall lack of character and honesty of those running the program.

    • carpetbagger

      Generally true.

      The same thing could/should be said for Santa Ana schools.

      The trouble with the logic is the transitional nature of teh clients: KIDS.

      Kids get older. We can’t recycle leadership the way Disney does movies. So while organizational sucess translates in the short term, those “leaders” follow their kids.

      This, combined with the “Gordon Brown” sydrome spells doom for Santa Ana youth.

  4. Carpetbagger

    This is a senario that is playing out all over Orange County. I think Placentia was quite fractured, casued a municipal stir in brea over fields and I can’t remember where i read people were transfering kids from school to school for team allignment!

    My preference was always little league. Better sportsmanship, for ANY player, not just Latino. One of the things LL focuses on is teamwork as opposed to “winning at all costs”. In my experience not as many blowhards as Pony.

    I was surprised at Sal Tinajero’s comments approach. I understood him to think taht more players would be on thefeild. I don’t think that is the case, I think PONY dillutes the pool. But, I suppose that if it dillutes it of the jerk dads, it’s a good thing.

  5. Education First!

    Jerk dads are made and not born

    • Carpetbagger

      Boy ain’t that the truth!

      There is an undeniable trend in Youth Sports:

      The bigger the SUV, The Bigger the NOTW Sticker on the SUV: The bigger Jerk The Parent!

      It’s “Irvine like” some of the behavior at the fields.

  6. Carpetbagger


    This is a “Gordon Brown” issue.

    I will PM you to explain, if appropriate, we can publish discuss.

  7. TJLocalSA

    It is great to have options…both Little League and Pony. Both are great programs for the kids and teach great skills. At the low age end (i.e. TBall/Machine Pitch), there really is not all that much of a difference but as the kids progress Pony seems to move more towards competition and full baseball rules.

    Like most kids sports, it is so much more about the parents and coaches involved compared to the “rules.” The coaches will likely still “teach” the same code of conduct, sportsmanship, respect, work habits, etc… regardless of whether they are coaching Pony or Little League.

    As kids were moving away from our local community to other areas to play Pony, it sure seems to make sense to give our local families a choice.

    NESLL opening weekend is the 9th. SA Pony is this coming weekend the 2nd…play ball!

    • Anonymous

      We just signed up for Santa Ana Pony League. We had been part of the LL experience for over 5 yrs now. Our most recent All Star experience left a bad taste in my mouth with our coaches primarily focused on the win. My kid was benched for the first 4 out of five innings. Mind you, my kid is pretty good. He batted twice and made it on base both times. Time for a change. Hope it works out at SA Pony.
      Non-Jerk Dad..

      • My kid had the same experience in the All Star games this year. Best of luck to you!

      • Telling the truth mom

        I too came from little league and am on a all star team we are having the best experience the compition is steep and these coaches are getting them ready for high school. You better get ready because there is no daddy baseball in high school! Thanks speaking the truth mom!

  8. Michelle

    What do u think of this post as a response:
    I started my son with SANWLL in t-ball over 3 years ago and made the transition to PONY with them this year. Basing your opinion on an entire league over one experience and one game is both narrow minded and ignorant. I could go on and on about my experiences at other leagues as well, but I know better. Understanding that coaches as well as umpires are human- we all should understand how charged a game can get. This shows passion for the game- not a “win at all costs” attitude at all!! After reading some comments on this post, you can see how there can be just as many problems in little league.
    Providing players with an option to play PONY baseball within the city of Santa Ana was a gift to all Santa Ana residents. Many parents, including myself, look for the program that best suits the needs of their child. We were prepared to look into surrounding PONY leagues for our son to further his skills in the game and learn real baseball rules, thus leaving the City of Santa Ana for sports. Many of the Santa Ana High School coaches discussed how players were not prepared for high school level baseball as a whole in this city. That the many players who did leave for outside PONY leagues or travel ball tended to seek high schools in those cities to play with their friends. Many SA high school head coaches were very excited about the transition to PONY and donated their time to help run the first annual free players’ clinic.
    I believe that there is a place and a need for both leagues in Santa Ana. Parents need to look into both options and select the league that bests fits their child. My suggestion, get involved in whichever league you choose. Both little league and Pony leagues operate on volunteers and can always use more help. I will be keeping both of my kids with Santa Ana Pony!!

    • My experience with the Northwest parents and board was awful but I hope your league works out. In the end it’s all about the kids, or the least it should be.

  9. carpetbagger

    Whether you live in Santa Ana, Huntington Beach, Brea DADDY BALL is alive and well. But, for you parents new to this, understand: this practice is NOTHING NEW. It has been ths was for decades.

    It’s up to you to decide: Do you want your kid to be popular and make ALL STARS? Join the board coach a tem, contribute $$$ (have your friends give $$ and you will have an ALL STAR, and a sticker for Moms car.

    Now if you want your kid to be well mannered, rounded and grounded, put him LL or Pony during the formative years 6-12, but then look at TRAVEL BALL or the new trend of “feeder teams” where HS coaches in a quest to make more $$$, run summer teams (Yeah IT IS pay to play, but it prepares young men for High School ball.)

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