For the sixty 11- and 12-year-olds who play Bronco baseball in La Jolla,the Bronco field is the main stage for their weekend activities because of its central location near the snack shack, restrooms, parking lot and the allure of the Bronco bleachers and shed.
Bronco level baseball represents a player’s sixth or seventh year playing thesport. During those years, players have learned vital life lessons related in sportsmanship, team work and camaraderie. They have also learned what is, and how to play “real baseball.” (PONY follows MLB rules such as leading off, stealing bases, and wearing metal cleats — Little League rules do not). If you want to know anything about the sport, ask any Bronco player to rattle off their favorite team’s statistics, a little baseball strategy, or how to create a team line-up. Not only will you get a response from experience, but you will probably get an opinion on the Padres or insights about their favorite player.
Bronco players think they can coach, too. They will give you great inside tips on why you shouldn’t steal second on a good catcher, lead off too much on a specific left handed pitcher, and at all cost — avoid pitching a high fastball to a returning All Star. Of utmost importance to the parents is to park your car far away from home run and foul ball territory, because they take pride in hitting a home run and a car in the same swing.
By now, these players have spent hundreds — maybe thousands — of hours at the Cliffridge fields practicing or just running around with friends and family. In that time, Bronco level players have developed their skills and sharpened their knowledge of playing the game of baseball. Pitchers are throwing between 50 and 60 miles per hour, have a good change up and some even have a wicked curve ball. Most infielders have turned a double-play or two. Many outfielders have made a couple of “ESPN Web Gem” catches or have thrown someone out at the plate from the outfield.
Bronco hitters know how to lay down safety and squeeze bunts, hit opposite field behind runners and even put a couple over the fence. Bronco plays “real baseball” the way it is meant to be played with a bunch of kids getting dirty and having fun ... at the Bronco field. Apparently the Bronco parents have just as much fun, too.
Last Sunday, more than 300 LJYB kids and families attended the annual PONY Day at Petco and were treated to a fun Padre victory over the Phillies in a 6-1 game filled with big hits and silly errors.
Before the game, the kids got to parade around the field on the infield warning track with LJYB kids proudly carrying their banner and wearing their Padre uniforms. Bronco players Evan Benham and Nick Hammel were invited to throw out the 1st pitch and take infield before the game, which was a real thrill for them.