Mustang baseball is a division of the PONY youth baseball organization; PONY is the an acronym for "Protect Our Nation's Youth." Although not as well-known as other youth baseball organizations including Little League and Babe Ruth and Cal Ripken Baseball, PONY baseball has been in existence for more than 50 years and is played in 21 countries around the world as of fall 2009. PONY baseball involves players from ages 4 through 19, but only players ages 9 and 10 compete in the Mustang division. This division trains the players in the complete game of baseball, and tournament play begins at this level.
If you're planning to organize a Mustang baseball team, the first thing you'll need to know is who is eligible to play. For a team to play in the Mustang division, there must be no less than 15 and no fewer than 12 players, all of whom are aged either 9 or 10 as of August 1 in the current year. Players must also reside within the approved legal boundaries of their particular league as determined by league officers in order to participate in tournament play, and must not compete in more than one PONY baseball or softball league at a time.
Fields and Equipment
You will need to have access to a playing field where the bases may be placed 60 feet apart with the pitching mound situated 44 feet from home plate. The distance between home plate and the center of second base must be 84 feet, 10 inches. The pitcher's mound should be raised four inches above the ground, and the foul lines should be 175 feet long from home plate.
You will also need to have certain equipment on hand in order to comply with PONY league rules. Conventional uniforms are recommended but not required at the Mustang level. If uniforms are not available, players may compete in team T-shirts and caps. Official PONY baseballs are required, either leather or vinyl. Bats must be manufactured specifically for baseball (not T-ball), and must be no more than 42 inches long. All batters, on-deck batters, base runners and base coaches must wear batting helmets approved by NOCSAE (the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment). Cleats are permitted but not required, and it is absolutely forbidden for players to sharpen metal cleats so as to cause injury to other players. Any player serving as a catcher must wear proper protective equipment that includes a mask with a throat guard, a chest protector, protective headgear and shin guards.
Rules of Play
Familiarize yourself with the ''Official Baseball Rules" published by Major League Baseball, as all of the rules of play governing Mustang baseball are as spelled out in the MLB rules, with the following exceptions:
Players in the starting lineup who have been removed for substitutes can re-enter the game one time in their original place in the lineup.
If there is no eligible substitute for any player who becomes ill, is injured or is removed from the game, the last eligible player removed from the game may return as a substitute taking the place in the lineup of the player for whom they're substituting
Mustang leagues shall adopt one of three optional rules for league play as regards leading off of bases and stealing bases: a) it may be done according to the official MLB rules, b) only runners at first and second bases may lead off and steal or c) Runners may steal bases, but they can't leave the bases they're occupying until the pitched ball reaches or passes the catcher. Once the pitcher steps on the rubber in possession of the ball, any runner who has left base before the pitched ball reaches or passes the catcher is called out and the pitch is considered a dead ball. The choice of rules only applies to league play, however; at the tournament level, only the first option (official MLB rules) may be used.
Although there is no specific participation rule for the Mustang division, it is recommended that you allow each player on the team to play in at least two innings in every game.
You may, at your discretion, have players at the Mustang level hit off a tee, hit balls pitched by a coach from a mound located 44 feet from home plate, or hit balls from a pitching machine also located 44 feet from home plate. The Mustang level is also the first level at which you may have players pitch, although the PONY program does not recommend it for ages 9 and 10. There are a number of restrictions governing the use of players as pitchers. No player at the Mustang level may pitch in more than three innings per day or more than eight innings per week. Any pitcher who pitches (throws at least one ball) in three innings per day must have at least 40 hours of rest before pitching again. Any pitcher who is removed from that position but remains in the game in another position may not return to pitch again in the same game. Relief pitchers are allowed at least 10 warm-up pitches.
The official Mustang (and PONY) baseball rules do not specify what types of pitches may or may not be used by player pitchers, but the Ripken baseball coaching certification program is very clear that young pitchers should only throw the fastball as other types of pitches, such as curveballs and sliders, may damage young arms.
Length and Scheduling of Games
Mustang division games last six innings. If the game needs to be called on account of inclement weather, darkness or some other reason, it will be considered complete if at least four innings have been played, or if the home team is ahead at the bottom of the fourth. If either team has scored 10 runs after four innings, the game will be ended due to the 10-run rule.
You'll need to schedule at least 12 regular season games, but no more than two games may ever be played on one day. All games must begin prior to 7:30 p.m., and no inning may begin after 9 p.m.
Although the Mustang division is the first PONY level at which tournament play is introduced, tournaments nevertheless continue all the way up through the World Series level, which includes teams not only from all over the United States, but also teams from Mexico and the Caribbean. Teams that win their zone championships (the zones being North, South, East, West, Mexican and Caribbean; there are also European and Asia-Pacific zones, but they do not currently sponsor Mustang-level tournament play) are eligible to compete in the Mustang World Series.