It may be winter, but it's already time to start planning for the 2011 Kirkland Pony Baseball season in Kirkland.
Kirkland Baseball Commission, which provides recreational baseball for hundreds of teenagers in Kirkland and Redmond, has opened online registration at www.kirklandbaseball.org.
Glen Beard, commissioner for the program, says Kirkland Pony Baseball provides opportunities for players who want to continue with baseball after they are done with Little League.
"We offer a low-cost, high-quality program for the kids who may not be interested in playing at the high-pressure select level, or whose families may find the costs of those programs prohibitive," said Beard, who has been with KBC for more than 15 years. "Many of our players go on to play for their high school teams or select teams, while others just love baseball and want to keep playing for the fun of it. We welcome them all, and don't turn anyone away."
Fees start at $325 for a 25-game season. Select programs often cost more than $2,000.
A major selling point for the program is its home field, beautiful Lee Johnson Field at Peter Kirk Park. "Teams coming from other cities are in awe when they see our field," said Beard. "We have a lot of leagues calling and asking if they can play our teams, for the competition but also so they can play at Lee Johnson."
Teams compete against other Kirkland teams as well as those from surrounding communities, from Mountlake Terrace and Bellevue to Issaquah and Seattle. "Kids get to play with and against their friends, but they also get to see how they stack up against teams from other cities," said Beard. "It's really the best of both worlds. About 80 percent of our games are played on the Eastside, so players get to play a lot of baseball without doing a lot of traveling."
KBC comprises three age divisions:
- Pony (ages 13-14)
- Colt (ages 15-16)
- Palomino (ages 17-18)
The Pony division offers two levels: Olympic, which is more competitive and requires a tryout, and Cascade. In addition, there is a more competitive level for 13-year-olds called Pony 13. Pony teams play on a field with 80-foot basepaths rather than the full-sized 90 feet, easing the transition from the smaller Little League diamond.
Players residing in the Lake Washington School District are eligible to play. The majority of KBC players are graduates of Kirkland's two outstanding Little League programs, Kirkland American and Kirkland National, but Redmond residents are eligible as well. Many KBC players also play on their junior high or high school baseball teams, or play other spring sports. "Every effort is made to be flexible to allow everyone to participate," said Beard.
Tryouts will take place in late January, and teams will be formed by Feb. 15. The Pony and Colt seasons start in late March and continue through early June. Palomino play starts after the school baseball season ends and extends into the summer.
The Kirkland program is affiliated with PONY (Protect Our Nation's Youth) Baseball, an international organization with tens of thousands of players across the U.S. KBC all-star teams participate in postseason PONY tournaments that can lead to the national tournament in Pennsylvania.
Complete information about the program, including contact information, is available at www.kirklandbaseball.org.