12 teams part of Pony League World Series

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Fans who want to watch more baseball than the first-place Pirates can visit Washington, Pa., this weekend for the 62nd annual Pony League World Series, an event that features some of the best 14-year old baseball players in the world.

The tournament begins at 11 a.m. today at Lew Hays Pony Field, when the Home Run Derby and Fastest Runner skills competition starts a weekend that will feature 19 games in six days. The first game is at 5:30 pm, when Brownsville, Texas, takes on Bayamon, Puerto Rico.

There are 10 teams participating this year -- one each from the North, East, South and West U.S. zones, four international teams, a team that won a host-area tournament consisting of teams from southwest Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and northern West Virginia, and the host team, Washington.

Teams qualify for the double-elimination tournament by winning local, regional and zone tournaments.

The four international teams this year are from Japan, Germany, Mexico and Puerto Rico. West zone winner Hilo, Hawaii, became the first Hawaiian team since 2004 to qualify.

Three years ago, the tournament consisted of eight teams, but organizers realized how the game has grown internationally and added two more qualifying spots to Mexico and Europe. The most recent international team to win the tournament was Chinese Taipei in 2009.

It's too early in the careers of these teenagers for them to be scouted, but that doesn't mean some won't play professionally some day. Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich played in the World Series in 2006, when his team from Simi Valley, Calif., lost in the championship.

He made his major league debut a few weeks ago and finished a series Thursday against the Pirates at PNC Park, about 30 miles from where his Pony team played seven years ago.

Besides the two games today, three will be played Saturday, three Sunday and four Monday and Tuesday. The championship will be at 7 p.m Wednesday.

A full bracket for the tournament can be found on ponyworldseries.org.

On 10 a.m. Saturday, the tournament will have a Champions League game, which is designed for special needs children. The Champions League participants play side-by-side with other players in the tournament, along with a few professional players from the Frontier League's Washington Wild Things.

"It's a great event to watch," said Bill Stough, the vice president of the organization running the tournament, World Series Tournaments, Inc. "Kids who can do it and kids who need help doing it with the professional players ... it's a wonderful thing. It's an amazing thing to watch.

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Everett Cook: ecook@post-gazette.com and Twitter @everettcook.


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