Warrior baseball practice took on a youthful character Monday afternoons during the fall. PONY League players from the community, ranging in age from 8 to 14 years, filled Carr Field and learned the basics of the sport from varsity athletes.
The inspiration for this collaboration came from Head Coach Rob Crawford.
“I was asked if some of our players could coach PONY League teams because the organization didn’t have enough coaches,” he said.
“After brainstorming with Ken Doss, PONY League president, and Dave Marshall, a coach and board member, I came up with the idea of Westmont providing one practice a week for the league. The different PONY League teams could split up for another practice during the week and for games on the weekends, but on Mondays, they’d come together at Westmont for a practice with the college team.
“Monday practice is optional during fall-ball so I asked my team if they would be willing to participate in coaching the PONY League players. The response was overwhelming enthusiasm for the idea,” Crawford said
“Originally we were only going to involve the 13- and 14-year-olds, but when the 11-year-old coach, Seth Smith, heard what we were planning, he wanted his guys to be part of it. So we opened it up to everyone in the PONY League.”
Each week 30-35 kids participate with 25-30 college players. Small groups of players rotate to a variety of stations around the field.
“The kids are so excited to be working with the college players,” said Paul Bradford, a coach and board member. “Parents have noticed how the kids sprint from one station to another when it is time to change.”
“I’ve been coaching for 14 years and have never seen anything like the individual attention these kids are getting from the Westmont players,” Smith said. “We’re not an expensive club program. We’re open to all who play in the league. These kids are getting expert coaching and I am expecting them to accelerate in their baseball skills.”
“PONY League is concerned with more than base-ball,” Doss said. “I am excited about the type of players these boys are getting to know. These are the role models and values we are looking for.”
Doss and Bradford want to increase the interaction between the players and kids by having families invite two or three of the players over for a home-cooked meal.
“I am excited about the character I am seeing in our guys,” Crawford said. “They are taking the initiative to teach and see to it that none of the kids are left out. This is not just about teaching baseball, it’s about mentoring and investing in the lives of others. This reflects the core values we have in the Warrior baseball program.”