Pony League and Little League baseball enhance children’s appreciation and knowledge of the game while improving their fitness and skills. Both leagues offer structured, volunteer-run programs that provide children with the opportunity to participate in baseball and compete against other teams of a similar age and skill level. The support organizations, parents and volunteers in both leagues promote benefits such as discipline, sportsmanship, teamwork, responsibility and self-esteem. The differences between the leagues include age divisions, field dimensions and specific skills allowed during games.
Historically, Pony League started as a means to provide continuing opportunities for boys to play baseball after they had graduated from Little League at age 12. As of 2011, both leagues offer programs for boys and girls from ages 5 to 18. Little League teams have a broader range of ages within teams and leagues. For example, Little League can have children ages 9 to 12 playing together, but Pony teams divide children into 9- and 10-year olds, and 11- and 12-year-olds. Pony League operates under the assumption that children have a more positive experience when there is greater uniformity in physical, social and emotional maturity.
Little League has two diamond sizes. Children 12 and under play on a diamond that has 60 feet between bases. At age 13, children move to a full-size diamond with 90 feet between bases. Pony League scales the size of the diamond by age, ranging from 50-foot baselines for 5- to 6-year-olds, and expanding the length in 10-foot increments for each successive age group, reaching 80 feet for 13- and 14-year-olds and a full-size diamond for 15- to 18-year-olds.
Kids begin to pitch earlier in Pony League. Both leagues start the youngest kids with T-ball. Little League has a pitching machine division between T-league and the Minor Leagues division. Kids start to pitch at the 7- to 8-year old level in Pony League.
Pony League players start stealing bases earlier than Little League players, due to the fact that Pony League lets kids pitch earlier. In Little League, 9- and 10-year-olds can attempt to steal after the ball has crossed home plate. Players are not allowed to take a lead at the base. In Pony League, players can take a lead and steal at age 9.