Prior to the start of the Pony League World Series, the managers of the 10 participating teams were told to be prepared for poor weather causing changes.
Most probably shrugged off the warning, feeling those types of things rarely happen.
Well, it has happened.
A second day of thunderstorms caused the postponement of two winners’ bracket games Monday night and forced a six-game schedule for today.
To fit them in, each of the games will be shortened to five innings.
“You can’t change the length of a game once you start it,” said Bob Gregg, president of World Series Tournaments Inc. “The two winners’ bracket games from (Monday night) and four originally scheduled Tuesday will all be five innings.”
This is the first time in world series history that five-inning games are played.
“We changed to this format a few years ago to play our elimination games during the day and our winners’ bracket feature games at night,” said Gregg. “With this, we’ll have our winners’ bracket games to start the morning. It’s happened a couple times before. It’s not ideal but it’s better than pulling a name out of a hat and say, ‘You’re the Pony League World Series champ.’”
Gregg said there used to be a tarp at Lew Hays Pony Field but there were problems involved with it.
“Years ago, we had a tarp that covered the infield and about 15, 18 feet into the outfield,” Gregg said. “But there were several things about that. It’s unwieldy. If you don’t have a crew ready to precisely manage that piece of tarp, you could have significant issues.
“People might remember Tarp Man at PNC Park. They had a crew and that’s what they do and they still ended up with a man trapped underneath. They are heavy and hard to move. And with our situation, where do we move it to?”
Rain and lightning Friday wiped out the first two games of the world series and pushed them to Saturday. A similar-styled storm Monday forced a revamping of the schedule again. The championship game is still scheduled for Wednesday evening.
While the postponements have been frustrating to organizers, players, coaches and fans, it has been especially devastating to the tournament. Three of the first four games that were scheduled to be televised by AT&T SportsNet were washed out.
The Wednesday championship game is the fifth and final game scheduled to be televised.
“First we lost the Friday night AT&T game and now we lost those two games from Monday,” said Gregg. “Now, we’re looking at the championship game.”
The poor weather has challenged the all-volunteer grounds crew headed by Mark Murphy. The group did a great job preparing the field for Saturday’s game after Friday’s storms and Murphy said he can prepare the field for play in just under two hours after the rain stops. He uses a calcined clay product called Turface.
“It’s not the worst (situation) I’ve seen ... but it’s not the greatest,” said Murphy, who has worked the series for 31 years. “The field drying product absorbs the moisture out of the ground and releases it real slowly. ... This field drains pretty good.”
The revamped schedule and shorter games sent managers scrambling to adjust.
“It’s something we never had to deal with before,” said Long Beach, Calif., manager Ken Jakemer. “My staff and I are going to meet and figure out how we are going to approach this thing. I think we lose some of our advantage with our pitching staff depth. ... You have to play by the rules no matter what happens and you have to be ready for it.”
The 9 a.m. start of the six-game schedule has Chinese Taipei playing Youngstown, Ohio followed by Tijuana, Mexico versus Long Beach at 11 a.m.