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Apr, 2019

Sweden gears up for first-ever trip to the PONY European Zone Championships

For Daniel Lindkvist, the Head of the Swedish Baseball & Softball Federation Youth Committee, the opportunity to participate in a highly renowned, international youth tournament in Europe was so exciting that Sweden entered not one, but three of its national teams (two baseball: Pony 14U and Colt 16U and one girls softball: Colt 16U) in PONY’s upcoming Pony & Colt European Zone Championships in Prague, Czech Republic.

“We see this as a great opportunity to not only develop our own players, but also meet teams and players from other countries who have the same love of the game as we do,” said Lindkvist. “Our focus is to facilitate development for each player, the teams and for baseball and softball as a whole in Sweden.”

This year marks the first year that youth teams from Sweden will participate in PONY’s European Zone Championships. Despite the fact that Swedish residents are still experiencing winter temperatures, players on these national teams are still practicing with their respective home clubs, typically two-to-three times a week. Lindkvist said that they also hold gatherings where the players on the national teams can interact.

“The strength of our teams lies in the engagement and commitment,” said Lindkvist. “These players live and breathe baseball and softball and spend most of their waking hours on the field on their own or as part of organized practices. They share a common desire to develop and to improve their skills.”

Lindkvist said that because of a recent trend in which committed youth coaches are developing and growing the sport from the bottom-up at an exponential rate, all over the country, Sweden is witnessing the largest number of players participating in a very long time. He said the golden age of Swedish baseball was in the mid 1990s, a time when there were 93 clubs nation-wide. Unfortunately, Sweden started to experience a gradual decline over the next decade because it was without a structured plan of growth and development at the youth level. Now, given the bounce back in baseball and rise in popularity of girls softball, Lindkvist believes it is the appropriate time for Sweden’s national youth teams to compete on an international level.

“We hope to have the kids [serve] as ambassadors for [the] other kids in their respective home programs, and that is why we have selected the kids for the [national] teams so that most, if not every program in Sweden will have a representative on the teams,” said Lindkvist. “As a collective improvement area, we would say that all of the Swedish players need more in-game experience. The PONY League is of utmost importance for us since it yields the possibility to experience continental baseball and softball competition.”

Lindkvist considers the Prague Eagles Baseball Complex, the home of the PONY European Zone Championships, to be a great venue and a classic baseball territory in Europe. With good infrastructure and great facilities, he looks forward to participating in an event held to the highest of standards.

“Director [Jan] Bagin and the tournament management have been instrumental in guiding us in our first journey to the PONY League tournament,” said Lindkvist. “We really feel that we are in good and capable hands. We are very glad and supportive of the focus that long term sustainability of the youth players has precedence over short terms results. We should not push the limits in a way that risks the health and safety of our future talents.”

In the Pony 14U baseball age division, Sweden is slated to compete in Pool D with France’s Bordeaux Academy, Holland’s B ational team and the Czech Academy’s B national team. Likewise, in the Colt 16U baseball age division, Sweden is grouped with Israel’s national team, Holland’s B national team, Germany’s Berlin Academy and the Moscow Cardinals of Russia. In Colt 16U girls softball, Sweden will compete with the Prague Eagles and Storms Řepy of Czech Republic and the Players Softball Team (2) of Russia in Pool C. All three teams will begin play on Thursday, April 25.

“We are very much looking forward to participating in this tournament and join the community of engaged teams from all over Europe,” said Lindkvist.


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