The Premier Baseball League of Ontario is continuing its expansion, welcoming in the Kingston Jr Ponies as the ninth team to join the ranks. The Ponies franchise has a long history in the senior division, but now they will be represented in the junior age groups, competing in the 14U, 15U, 16U, and 18U divisions. It's time to get to know the most recent addition to the PBLO family.
“We are excited to have the opportunity and privilege to play in the PBLO, a widely respected association with a rich tradition of developing players in their respective baseball journeys,” described Jim Hunt, coach of the 16U Ponies. The Kingston players will face the challenge of coming into a league full of highly touted prospects with loads of experience. Hunt said that, “the coaches have been busy in the off-season preparing the players, pushing them to improve their skills and become solid teammates.”
The Kingston Ponies franchise was founded in 1899 and has had stints in several different leagues, including the professional Border League from 1946 to 1951. Going back even earlier, Del Cherry, the father of the infamous host of Hockey Night in Canada, played for the Ponies in the early 1920s.
Now, the Jr Ponies will take up the mantle from their senior counterparts that came before. Many of the coaches were former players for the Senior Ponies club, bringing in expertise as well as keeping the Pony traditions alive. “We owe a debt of gratitude to current Kingston Ponies president Doug Graham for allowing us to partner with the senior club - which is still on a pandemic-related hiatus - and to use the Jr Ponies logo as we embark on what I believe will be an exciting and rewarding PBLO adventure,” Coach Jim Hunt said.
With it being the first year of the Jr Ponies in PBLO league play, the players feel that they have a lot to prove. Over the course of the offseason, the coaches have been preparing the players for the challenges that await them this summer on the field. However, they also found it was important for the players to get closer with one another. Hunt said that his 16U ballclub is a “tight-knit group with a great compete level” and that his players are itching for the season to begin as they can showcase their skill sets to the rest of the league.
As the Ponies enter their inaugural season, the players and coaches feel a bit of pressure leading up to the start of the season. Hunt described the feeling as “cautious excitement” as well as getting the “proverbial butterflies” here and there. “Those butterflies will soon transform into confidence and reassurance that they do indeed belong at this level,” Hunt said. The coaches’ priority is on the development of the players and if enough of the kids play up to their potential, the teams across all divisions could be a well-balanced unit. “The coaches are committed to trying to help the kids get ready for their next level, whether that be the next age level or, in the case of the 18U team, baseball at the post-secondary level.”
Joining the Midwestern Ontario Bearcats as all-new franchises joining the PBLO this year, the anticipation is high for the Kingston Jr Ponies to see how they can adapt on the fly to the challenges that present themselves over the course of a long season. Everybody loves a good underdog story, and there is a real chance for a massive shake-up in the Ontario baseball hierarchy. “Our organization and its players are grateful for the opportunity to play in one of the country's top-shelf baseball leagues.”