Pony World Series eludes La Jolla’s Bronco baseball team

The La Jolla Youth Baseball Bronco team made it to the Zone tournament, the last stop before the Pony Baseball World Series.
(Jose Arzate)

The 12-and-younger group nevertheless had ‘a great experience’ in the Zone playoff tournament in Riverside County.


Though glory was in sight for the La Jolla Youth Baseball 12U all-star Bronco team, a berth in the Pony Baseball World Series slipped through its fingers.

The team, which La Jolla Youth Baseball leaders called “LJYB’s best Bronco all-star squad in recent history (maybe ever),” reached the four-day Zone playoff tournament July 20-23, which included teams from the western United States and Hawaii. The winner of the Zone tournament proceeds to the World Series in Texas.

The Zone tournament has a double-elimination format, so teams are out when they lose two games. For the La Jolla Bronco squad, that came after three games in hot weather in Riverside County.

After winning its first game in Moreno Valley with temperatures over 90 degrees, the team lost the next two games, said LJYB President Scott Blumenthal.

“We have never had a Bronco team make it to this stage. This is a big accomplishment.”

— Scott Blumenthal, president of La Jolla Youth Baseball

Because of the heat, the La Jolla team played its first game against a team from High Desert in the evening, when the field was a little cooler. However, the lights went out at 10:30 p.m. during the sixth inning of the seven-inning game and it had to be suspended and resumed the next day.

La Jolla was ahead 8-6 when the game was suspended and went on to win 11-6.

A few hours later, the team lost to a squad from La Cañada Flintridge, 16-6.

Because of the loss, La Jolla would have to win four games over the next two days or go home.

In taking on a team from Hawaii, the boys showed “tremendous grit,” Blumenthal said.

They rallied from down 13-2 to narrow the gap to 14-12. “They were pretty hyped up and there was a ton of energy,” Blumenthal said.

However, Hawaii ultimately claimed victory, 18-12.

“It was 100 degrees when we left, so for some, it was OK that it was the end of the road for us,” Blumenthal said. “But it was a great experience for the team and a nice chance to display their full mettle.

“I went back and looked at the brackets from the last 15 years and we have never had a Bronco team make it to this stage. This is a big accomplishment.”

Blumenthal credited the players’ camaraderie with helping them make it this far.

“It’s a great group of kids, and six or seven of them have been together since the beginning and have grown up together through La Jolla Youth Baseball,” he said. “Their closeness is unique about this crew.”

Manager Jeff Weinstock gives the La Jolla Youth Baseball Bronco team a pep talk in the dugout.
(Jose Arzate)

Team manager Jeff Weinstock agreed.

“For me, the thing that stands out the most is that this group knew they needed to be a team,” Weinstock said. “This is a team sport, and in every game we rely on different guys to step up and contribute. All 12 kids have embraced that. One of the coolest things is there are no little cliques within the team. This group is one big group of friends. They are very supportive, and we have been through some tough games, but we stuck together and pulled it off. We didn’t rely on two or three people.”

Friendship Games

Though La Jolla Youth Baseball won’t have a World Series to look forward to, it will have the upcoming Friendship Games.

Earlier this year, La Jolla Youth Baseball was awarded a Friendship Games partnership with Japan, an exchange program that will bring young Japanese baseball players to La Jolla this year and send LJYB players to Japan next year. The alternating trips will go on for the foreseeable future.

The 54 Japanese players across four teams, plus five coaches and five family members, will be housed by local families. On Aug. 11, a welcome party will be held at La Jolla Youth Baseball’s Cliffridge Park so the teams can get to know one another and get to know the field. From there, games will be played between the La Jolla and Japanese teams Aug. 12-13.

Activities also will include a beach day and watching a Padres game, followed by a few more games before the Japanese players go home Aug. 16.

“We’re really fired up about it,” Blumenthal said.

La Jolla Youth Baseball fields teams in the Shetland (6 and younger), Pinto (7 and younger), Mustang (9 and under and 10 and under), Bronco (12 and under) and Pony (14 and under) divisions. Learn more at ◆