The most important thing needed to begin a Champions League is finding an enthusiastic person, or small group, that has a true desire to bring baseball/softball to the special needs community in your area.
Once your committee has been established, contact your PONY Region Director. Inform them of your intention to form a Champions League, and find out who is your Champions Zone Director. Your Zone Director is experienced in creating Champions Leagues and are eager to assist you.
Your Champions League Committee should then begin making a list of community organizations that have ties to the special needs individuals. Such as:
- School Districts
- Special Olympic Groups
- Community Outreach Programs
Create marketing fliers for your new league. This could include the PONY Champions League flier.
Contact your community organizations and present your new league. Also, ask for permission to give your marketing tools to leaders within these organizations for distribution.
Like your traditional league, establish dates and times for registration.
Be sure to register your Champions League with PONY Baseball. There is no registration fee for Champions League, just be sure to register one team for every ten players.
The two most important things a league must do are:
- Establish a permanent time slot for the Champions games. This is important for the families and players to work around their schedules. Creating a time slot allows the players something look forward to.
- Establish playing rules.
Find sponsors who are willing to assist with the cost of uniforms, equipment and other items/activities you might need.
Try to make the cost of participation for the families as minimal as possible.
The beauty of the Champions League is that the rules for play can vary from player to player. PONY has an established set of guidelines but we understand that the various needs of each player allows you the ability to adjust as you see necessary.
- Buddies should be used to assist in the games -- not to make plays during the games, rather to help keep players safe and keep them engaged in the game. Seek volunteer players from your PONY league or community groups, such as high school teams, so they can reap the intrinsic benefits of buddying with the Champions.
- It is encouraged that participants between the ages of 4 and 23 years old be paired with and against players of their relative age and/or skill level. Players of all ages with special needs are encouraged to participate. Note: Champions League players are those with special needs that would prevent them from playing in a traditional baseball or softball program. The Champions League is designed for friendly/non-competitive play.
- Teams may include as many players as manageable.
- Champions League play is designed for T-Ball or Coach Pitch.
- The “Buddy” system will be allowed and encouraged in both levels of play. These buddies will assist their player catch, field, and throw; and as necessary, get around the bases. These buddies can be traditional participants of baseball and softball, family or community members.
Each player on the roster shall bat each inning and shall play defensively each inning. In addition, through the course of the rotation, it is recommended that stations be set up in the outfield area to keep the players active. Stations may consist of a batting tee set up for hitting into a net; throw back nets; pitching nets; bases set up for practice runs.
It is encouraged that no score be kept for this division.
Insurance coverage for this division would be the same as any other team within the league and may be purchased through your local provider or through the PONY Baseball and Softball services of Gagliardi Insurance.
Participants should be provided a Champion league t-shirt and a PONY Baseball and Softball hat.
The league shall provide the necessary safety equipment for the conduct of the league as well as adequate bats, stands for t-ball, bases (recommend safety bases), balls (recommend poly baseball and poly softball) and helmets with chin guards.
No team should be required to play more than one game in one day and the recommended length of the game should not extend beyond 90 minutes of play.
The inning shall end when the roster has batted through. There will be no outs based on strikes, and no three outs to end the inning.
There is no special playing field required, although some communities choose to build a wheelchair-friendly synthetic field specifically designated for the Champions Division.
It is encouraged by PONY Baseball and Softball that adequate sponsors are found so that there is little or no cost to the players or their families. We also encourage that treats be provided at the end of each game.
PONY Baseball and Softball wishes to create an atmosphere that fosters support systems among the families through other activities throughout the season; for example, spring training day, fall festival, field trips to ball parks.
The Champions Division should be franchised through PONY Baseball and Softball utilizing their online registration.
CHAMPIONS LEAGUE MISSION STATEMENT
“To provide every child regardless of special needs the opportunity to participate in America's favorite pastime of baseball and softball. It is our goal to provide an environment that enhances the participants' self-esteem, physical mobility, and embodies the spirit of teamwork and community.”
THE CHAMPIONS PLEDGE
For the love of the game, and the spirit of opportunity, I seek to uphold the storied values of the sport.
To always play fair, encourage others, and to put forth all effort, in spite of outcome or circumstance.
With Love of God, Family, and Country, I am a PONY Champion.
- by Corey Michael Miller -