Thu. Sep 28th, 2023

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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.

By Editor

The New Santa Ana blog has been covering news, events and politics in Santa Ana since 2009.

25 thoughts on “Santa Ana now has both Pony and Little League baseball – which is better?”
  1. 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?

      1. 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.

        1. 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.

          1. 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.

  2. 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.

    1. 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.

  3. 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.

    1. 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.

  4. Admin,

    This is a “Gordon Brown” issue.

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

  5. 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!

    1. 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..

      1. 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!

  6. 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!!

    1. 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.

      1. If we could figure out a way to run this thing without the parents…..It would be GREAT!

  7. 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.)

  8. I played at Northeast in the late 70′ and early 80’s, the ( Hey Day ), of little league baseball… now things are different. I am not an expert, but I have dedicated my life to the game. I rarely contribute on these type of boards, but I was born and raised in Santa Ana and the kids that play here mean the most to me.

    access and information is the biggest difference in today’s youth sports scene. with a son graduating and getting an academic scholarship to a private university. it was all possible from his hard work in the classroom and spending 4years in a cif d-1 baseball program. I also have a 12yo son that played last fall for 2teams, little league on Saturdays and Pony on Sundays. I let him choose who he wanted to play for this last spring and he chose little league.

    not to give these coaches credit, but without a doubt, it is much better these days. information has allowed those who seek it, an advantage. I read on others post before mine and saw terms like ” Daddy Ball “, and ” Win At All Cost “, or that there is no daddy ball in HS. all these terms have truth and misconceptions in them. I am a HS baseball parent. there are many things I can reveal, but I will only reveal 2. the first is gonna hurt, because it hurt me, but I had it coming. your kid is not going to play in college or sign a pro contract. my son always busted his behind in the classroom and he will go on to be a productive member of society. his HS coach told me once, ” We’re Building Men Here “. if your son has a coach that truly believes that and lives it, he is in a good program. 2, DO NOT think there is no Daddy influence in HS baseball, because there is. politics is alive and well at EVERY level of baseball and the HS level is not an exception.

    the HS program you choose for your child must be thoroughly researched. schools with a heavily active booster club will expect you to participate and contribute, otherwise don’t waste your time. there are also programs where a booster board is not as prevalent as others and might be a better fit for a player that does not have to worry about how much money they owe for multiple fundraisers, and just focus on baseball. talk to the coach, ask him questions that really concern you, but don’t wait until your son is a freshman, find out before so he don’t have to transfer his soph/junior year. when you have finally made a decision, you should immediately start contributing your time and energy into this such program 3-4 years prior to your son being a freshman. my son’s annual tuition for his college is $35,000, baseball provided him the focus, environment and work ethic that allowed him to accomplish this tremendous goal that his mother and I are ever so proud and greatful for.

    there will be good experiences in little league and Pony baseball and there will be bad ones to. to me that’s not what the focal point is on this subject matter…it’s how you deal with it as a player and/or parent that will reveal your true character. that’s why we all LOVE this game, it shows young people how to deal with adversity that sometimes we adults distort as the truth, when it’s not.

    coaches and umpires are not above baseball, they should be held to high standards and each incident should be thoroughly investigated. when it comes to the welfare of our children. leagues should take heed and not sweep things under the rug when one of their own is called out for a legitimate reason. impartiality should be foremost when it comes to these investigations instead of having your buddy from the board investigate you. it should be someone the individual doesn’t even know, that’s the only way we will ever get to the truth. ever hear of conflict of intrest? they make sure it does not exist in ALL state and federal supreme courts. why wouldn’t you do that in youth sports? it’s biased and heinous!

    I will conclude this towards the leadership that we ALLOW to be an influence in our childrens everyday lives. you coaches owe the players and parents one thing and if you can’t do that, you have no business being around our children, let alone being a coach…HONESTY, you owe the kids that skipper!

    1. Great comment. I watched Moneyball with my son, who is good at math and baseball. Now he knows he can run a team using statistics if playing ball doesn’t pan out.

      1. well that’s ironic you should write that. my son who is graduating this Wednesday got an offer from his coach, to coach the incoming freshman. they are going to pay him $2,000 at thee end of July for his time and knowledge.

        parents have to realize there are still so many options for our kids who don’t go on to play at the next level if they try their hardest and carry themselves in a respectful manner. it’s obvious his coach and his staff were already grooming him towards that role after HS and once again the program he was in and still is as a coach was the right choice for him. he is going to major in sports marketing and wants to be a sports agent. he has options though, who knows, he may get a teaching credential down the road and become a HS coach. that’s the point I’m trying to make, BASEBALL provides those who choose to, use thee opportunities that the game has to offer and that’s a lot of different offers.

        Can’t say I love the game, because it’s not a game…it’s a way of life.

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