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The City Journals

PONY Baseball helps kids focus on fun

May 07, 2018 02:37PM ● By Ruth Hendricks

Kids and adult leaders work on the baseball field. (Jennifer Dinkelman/West Jordan)

By Ruth Hendricks | [email protected]

It’s time again for balls, bats, mitts and bases. Many kids throughout the valley will spend time playing baseball this season. West Jordan PONY Baseball is a league seeking to make a difference in kids’ lives by helping them learn baseball in a supportive environment.

West Jordan resident Jennifer Dinkelman got involved four years ago so her five sons could learn to play baseball. Even her youngest at 3 years old plays ball.

PONY is an acronym, which stands for Protect Our Nation's Youth. PONY Baseball has been around for about 30 years and is dedicated to creating a safety-oriented and challenging game for children ages 3 to 19 years old.

The West Jordan PONY Baseball league is committed to providing children with the opportunity to participate in one of America's greatest pastimes in a safe and fully supervised baseball program. The nonprofit organization teaches fundamental skills, encourages physical activity and teamwork, promotes sportsmanship and motivates children to participate in organized sports.

“I volunteered in the organization, which helps since they waive some of the fees,” said Dinkelman. She likes the values of PONY Baseball and found that it cost much less than other competitive leagues, which can run up thousands of dollars. PONY Baseball fees run from $55 for the youngest players to $165 for the oldest.

Dinkelman’s brother played PONY Baseball as a child. “It’s a learning league, with healthy competition that is not demoralizing,” she said. The youngest kids play T-ball, while the group has accelerated all-star teams for those with more experience.

“The teams are small, about eleven per team, so the kids get lots of playing time,” said Dinkelman. “Nine or ten are on the field at a time, with one rover.”

All the positions are staffed by volunteers. PONY Baseball is operated exclusively by parent and community volunteers who are committed to teaching children the values of sportsmanship, courage, integrity, honesty and loyalty. Volunteers are needed and welcomed at any time and in all areas. The season goes from April to June.  

A fundraiser breakfast will be held Saturday, May 12 at Veterans’ Memorial Park at 1985 West 7800 South from 8:30 a.m. until noon, or whenever the food runs out.

One important way the group makes money is through concession sales at the games. There was previously a 2-story building at the Veterans’ Memorial Park that was used as a snack shack, but three years ago the building was so run down that city officials had to condemn it.

According to Dinkelman, West Jordan city staff said they would try to rebuild the structure and set aside a budget of around $30,000. However, after getting design plans and bids, the cost was estimated to be around $160,000.

The PONY Baseball leaders have been partnering with the city to find options. Last year, the group was able to bring in a mobile home to use as the sales center. Since organizers wanted to cook some items on site, there are city ordinances, fire codes and plumbing requirements to be met, which precludes the use of a mobile food vehicle.

Ryon Sim, president of West Jordan PONY Baseball, said the May fundraiser is an annual event to raise money for the general fund of this charitable organization. The group also has a banner program where businesses can buy banners of various sizes to display by the field, and there are some private donors. Sim said they are also working toward getting a scoreboard.

This is Sim’s third year as president, and he spent about four years as a commissioner before that. “I have been involved in baseball since my son played,” he said. “After he grew up, I missed the fun and pride of teaching kids baseball.”

Sim also likes the fact that PONY Baseball is not overly competitive. “We don’t push that winning is everything,” he said. “Having fun is more important.”

Sim is happy with the support West Jordan city provides. “The new council and mayor are good proponents of sports, and we are working hard to find solutions,” he said.

Sim said Mobile Mini provided the portable concession building, and it has been a huge sponsor. Dick’s Sporting Goods has also been a great sponsor, both on the local and national level. Company officials have donated equipment and hold a sale day when members can buy products at 20 percent off.

The first game for the year was played April 18, after a delay due to the heavy wind storm.