Website Manager

European Zone Information

PONY European Zone Director

Jan Bagin
[email protected]


EARLY DAYS
In the 1990s, PONY decided that it wanted a presence in Europe. PONY was invited as a guest of Major League Baseball to attend a coaching clinic in England. At the time Major League Baseball was heavily invested in sending envoy coaches and players to Europe to run coaching and player clinics. European Hot Stove style.
 
England would be the perfect stepping off point for PONY. Same language, similar sports culture, or so it thought. England sports are organized on the club system, as is most of Europe, and baseball was a minor sport. With the help of several people, including Ian Smyth of Leeds, PONY was able to organize several PONY European tournaments. PONY also organized a Friendship Series with England, and England sent a team of 14U players to Pennsylvania to play some exhibition games. PONY European Zone baseball was off and running.
 
Through those associations, PONY was invited to attend the Confederation of European Baseball annual Congress. The first Congress was in Bonn, Germany in 2001. PONY was a neophyte and was looking to make connections. The German Baseball Federation was the host of the first Congress. Their Executive Director at the time was Karsten Dufft. After introductions of the attendees, Karsten approached PONY President Abraham Key for the first time and asked what high school he went to in Washington, Pennsylvania. They attended the same high school when Karsten was an exchange student and stayed with the Myers family who live in a close neighborhood. Another step in the right direction.

Shortly after that Congress, Key met Jan Bagin of the Czech Republic. Jan always attended the American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in the United States and always attended the CEB Congress representing the Czech Baseball Association (as Secretary General of CBA) from 1992 – 1994 and then as Executive Director of Prague Baseball Week. After lengthy discussions, PONY decided to relocate its European Zone Championships to Prague.
 
PERFECT PARTNER
Prague is centrally located in Europe and has great facilities. The host, the Eagles Praha baseball/softball club, has five baseball and softball fields and a beautiful clubhouse. The transition was slow at first. The tournament only attracted maybe four or five teams in its Colt League 16U tournament. As the years passed and PONY attended more CEB Congresses, more countries expressed an interest in participation. Five teams quickly became eight and then ten. Some of the teams that won the Colt League European Championship started attending the Colt League World Series and were starting to have some success.
 
Eventually, the European Zone Championships had a full complement of sixteen teams and eventually, a waiting list. During the early success of the Colt 16U baseball championships, PONY added the Colt League 16U softball championships too. The winner of the Colt 16U baseball division receives a direct bid to the Colt League World Series every August. The winner of the 16U softball division receives a bid to the PONY East Zone Softball Nationals.

In 2017, the Netherlands became the first PONY European Zone team to win a PONY World Series event, when it went undefeated and won the Colt World Series in Lafayette, Indiana.
 
With the success of the 16U categories, PONY contemplated adding a Pony 14U age division to the event. Once again it started slow. Today, there is a full complement of 16 teams in the Pony 14U and the European Zone champions have won several opening round games of the Pony League World Series in Washington, Pennsylvania (USA).
 
“Prague, the Czech Baseball Association, the Czech Softball Association, Prague Eagles and Prague Tempo have been perfect partners as we continue to develop the youth baseball infrastructure in Europe," stated Abraham Key, President of PONY Baseball and Softball. “Jan Bagin, Jan Drabek, Petr Ditrich, Richard Kania and Gabriel Waage have been influential and instrumental in our success in Prague.”
 
“For all of us here at Prague, PONY European Zone Qualifiying Tournament is successful story of baseball and softball growth here in Europe” says Jan Bagin, PONY European Zone Director. “At the beginning, when the tournament moved to Prague, we believed, that we can get more teams to Prague then only four, five. But we could not even dream about current situation, when we have total 48 teams, both baseball and softball, which take part in our qualifier.”
 
CEB AGREEMENT
In 2013 PONY signed a historic agreement with the Confederation of European Baseball (CEB) to become a developmental partner of the 38 Federations in Europe. CEB President Jan Esselman, (Netherlands) was instrumental in encouraging the partnership and PONY continues to assist European Federations and teams with coaching education, camps and clinics, umpire training, rules and regulations, equipment and tournament opportunities.
 
As a result of this agreement, PONY can be found in over 20 countries in Europe and growing. It is PONY's hope to be able to provide a similar opportunity to the European Softball Federation (ESF) in the near future. This discussion is ongoing.
 
FUTURE
A reflection of the success of PONY Europe in the Pony and Colt baseball age divisions, a Bronco European Zone Championships was held for the first time in Gijon, Spain in 2016. Hosted by El Llano Baseball Club, Gijon, Spain also was the site of European Zone qualifying tournaments in which the winners advanced to Prague in 2016. It is the European Zone's hope that the Bronco European Zone Champion will receive an automatic bid to the Bronco World Series in the near future. In April of 2018, the European Zone is proud to announce that it will hold, for the first time, a Palomino 18U European Zone Championships in Stuttgart, Germany. Once again, the sport in the continent is alive and growing!
 

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