Celeste Van Kirk/Observer-Reporter

A Washington County player makes a diving catch in right field against Simi Valley in the Pony League World Series at Lew Hays Pony Field in Washington. The World Series gets underway Friday, Aug. 13.

Twenty-three days from now, the first pitch will be unleashed in the Pony League World Series. That will end a nearly two-year layoff of the international event.

On a bright, sunny Tuesday, the organizers of the event got together to give a state of the series address and all systems are go for a Friday the 13th of August start.

Two big pieces of the pie came from the Community Foundation and the Washington County Tourism Promotion Agency, a $35,000 donation each to be used for video and television production costs of this year’s Pony League World Series.

“The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 Pony League World Series and has also impacted sponsorship and grant support for this year’s series,” said Nathan Voytek, who took over for Bob Gregg as president of World Series Tournaments Inc.

“We’re contracted with Pikewood Sports and that’s really where the money is going to go. If they would not have gotten the money, it’s likely the series wouldn’t be on TV this year.”

Without that $70,000, says Jeff Kotula, president of the Washington County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Promotion Agency, games from the series probably would not be televised by AT&T Sports Net. The network has committed to as many as seven games during the series, including the championship game at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 18, at Lew Hays Pony Field.

“We think it’s very important not only to bring the series to town but also to promote it,” said Kotula. “So not only is it a great way to promote Washington County, it’s a great way to promote the series.”

All games can be viewed on MLB.com.

Former Pirates broadcaster Lanny Frattare and WJPA’s Mark Uriah will handle the bulk of the broadcasting.

Kotula says the Pony League World Series brings in about $4 million in economic impact.

“Teams come in and stay at the hotels, patronize local businesses and restaurants,” said Kotula. “It is a tremendous impact for the few days it’s here. That’s another reason why we hope the series not only remains in Washington County but grows.”

COVID-19 also forced the change in participants. The team from the Asia-Pacific Zone, the one from the European Zone and the winner of the Mexico Zone will not be participating, leaving the number of participating teams at seven.

In order to have an even number of teams, two qualifying teams from the Host Tournament will participate instead of the usual one. The Host Tournament runs July 29 to Aug. 2 at the Vincentian Complex in McCandless Township.

“The seeding will be based on how they finish in that tournament,” said Abe Key, president of PONY Baseball and Softball. “I think while we were looking to replace some of the teams to get a balance, we didn’t want to go to seven teams. We thought eight teams was better balanced schedule-wise. We discussed many options about replacing that eighth team and the one that made the most sense was Host No. 2. And those teams can be from Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

“I think there will be great competition. Anything can happen.”

The Washington County team enters the tournament without going through a zone because it hosts the event.

Some of the events highlighted for the series include:

World Series FanFest, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 12, at Dick’s Sporting Goods. Most world series teams will be there and fans can take part in interactive games. Diamond Kinetics will allow players to use the “Smart Bat” to record swing statistics.

Home Run Derby and Fastest Runner contests, 11 a.m. Friday, Aug. 13, at Lew Hays Pony Field.

Champions League Games, 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 14. Provide an opportunity for special needs players to interact with world series players and coaches at Lew Hays Pony Field.

Breakfast of Champions, 9 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 15, at the DoubleTree in Meadow Lands.

Assistant Sports Editor

Joe Tuscano has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1980. He has covered all sports for the newspaper, including the Steelers, Pirates, Pitt football, local college football and wrestling.

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