There is something special about Pony baseball in La Jolla. For starters, there is no more fantastic field in all of San Diego. When you walk up to the top of the stairs and look down at the pristine field, it looks expansive compared to the other fields, and the Pacific Ocean makes for an unreal backdrop.
The 13- and 14-year-old players look a foot taller than they did last season. When the Pony players are juxtaposed alongside the kids on the Shetland field, they seem like giants. Not as many players matriculate to Pony for a host of reasons but it comes down to how busy their teen lives are and how much baseball is in their future. Pony baseball is important because this is the primary feeder to the local high schools besides travel ball, and the coaches want them to keep playing and developing through the 8th grade.
This season, La Jolla’s Pony Division is comprised of four teams with 48 players in the league. In order to keep things fresh, President Joe Smith proposed an Extramural schedule last season with teams from North City and Tecolote playing home-and-away schedules with the four La Jolla teams. It was an innovative idea for rec teams to travel outside their home field but it made everyone play better and see different styles of baseball throughout the regular season. This year it was the Big Red Machine — RBC (Royal Banque of Canada sponsored by Larry Andrews) — that led the league wire-to-wire. RBC’s juggernaut, scoring 192 runs in 21 games, came from the big bats of Luke Bucon (five home runs on the year) and Brandon Bonham (three HRs) as well as solid hitting across the line-up.
RBC made short work of its opponents in the early playoff games, besting RGR 13-9 and Tecolote Toreros, 13-3. The championship game was played at the Pony field on Saturday, June 11 with top-seed RBC squaring off against the Tecolote Aztecs, the top team from the Extramural bracket. In a game distinguished by solid pitching and solid defensive play, RBC outlasted the Aztecs 3-1 to become Pony Champions. RBC ended its season with an impressive 18-2-1 record. Congratulations to Manager John Zlatic and the Big Red Machine of RBC for a job well done!
There was one extra-inning playoff game that took two days to complete and ended up with a walk-off victory for Pharmatek, but required a call to the head umpire and a review of MLB Rule 6.09(b) before a winner was declared. The game between Pharmatek and RGR started on a Tuesday and was called due to darkness in the ninth inning with an 8-8 tie. The game resumed the following day, still tied in the bottom of the ninth and Patrick Skeen was on the hill with the bases loaded, two outs and two strikes on the batter Max Scott. Here’s when things get interesting: Max Scott strikes out but the ball gets away from the catcher, allowing Scott to safely reach first base and Johnny Agbulos advanced from third base to score the winning run. After much debate, the final word comes from MLB Rule 6.09(b): on an uncaught third strike, with no runner on first base or with two outs, the batter immediately becomes a runner. In this case with the bases loaded, it was a force at any base including home, but the runners safely advanced before a play was made. Game over — Pharmatek wins, 9-8!
In the “You can’t make up this stuff” category: After nine years of playing baseball in LJYB, Patrick Skeen is up to bat for his final time during regular season play. He’s never hit a home run. In the fifth inning on a 1-2 count, his final swing as a Pony player travels 256 feet over the right field fence for a round-tripper. Even pitcher Zach Duffy was happy for him.
Way to go Patrick!
—Tom Murphy, LJYB