As baseball fans in Washington County, we have a lot to be excited about looking forward, and a lot to be thankful for looking back. After all, baseball is in our DNA and this season is shaping up to be one for the ages.
PONY Baseball and Softball™ was founded here in 1951 as a transition league for 13-year-old and 14-year-old players designed to take graduates of Little League baseball from that diamond to a regulation size diamond. Growth of Pony League, primarily by word of mouth, was rapid, and by the end of the second season, 1952, the original six teams in Washington were joined by 505 others in 106 leagues around the country. Today, PONY Baseball and Softball fields 30,000 teams in 2,400 leagues in more than 50 countries. Capping off the PONY season each year, Lew Hays PONY Field in Washington Park hosts teams from around the globe at the DICK’S Sporting Goods PONY League World Series (August 12-17, 2022).
Just a stone’s throw away from PONY Baseball and Softball’s international headquarters and museum in Washington is Wild Things Park. The Washington Wild Things are a professional baseball team that play in the MLB-partnered Frontier League. In 2022, the Wild Things are celebrating their 20th season of baseball in the longest-running independent baseball league in history with a host of celebrations, fun and great baseball.
You won’t want to miss opening night, Friday May 13 at 7:05 p.m. The celebration kicks off with a pre-game ceremony at 6:30 p.m. on the field at Wild Things Park as the organization will welcome back some of the dignitaries and executives that were on the field on Opening Night of the 2002 season for the Wild Things. Former Director of Baseball Operations and Pittsburgh Pirates’ pitcher Kent Tekulve will be in attendance.
Since that inaugural season in 2002, the team has won seven division championships and has been to four Frontier League Championship Series within their numerous playoff appearances amassing a club record of 949-849 along the way. The task at hand this season is reaching 1,000 wins. It will take a 51-plus-win season to do it this year, but with an average of 49.9 wins over the last 19 seasons they are right on pace to become the fourth team in Frontier League history to reach the plateau.
One of the main goals of the Frontier League is to elevate its players to the next level, whether that means sending players back into affiliated ball to continue chasing the big leagues or into affiliated ball for the first time. Over the years Washington has had 45 player’s contracts purchased by affiliated teams with four instances of former Wild Things reaching the pinnacle of the journey: Major League Baseball.
From a fan’s perspective, there’s no better evening than an evening spent at the ballpark. You'll find kids playing catch with a Wild Things' player before the game from the front row, or you'll see players stopping to talk to fans and friends along the first-base line wall after the game. Fans line up in droves from behind the home plate net down the third base line to the picnic area waiting for the ever-popular $1 milk and cookies promotion. For adults, these may seem like little things, but they help to make the nights of the youngest fans and add to the tradition that is the experience of a Wild Things' game.
As always, the Wild Things have a fantastic line up of promotions set for the year including: Nickelodeon Night, Jimmy Buffett Night, Star Wars Night, Harry Potter Night, Christmas and Halloween in July, Disney Night, Irish Heritage Night, Italian Heritage Night, Superhero Night and many more. Fireworks Fridays are also a must see. Check out their full promotional schedule here.
If you have kids 12 and under, they can sign up for a free Kids Membership. The Kids Membership provides free admission and a free kids’ meal for all Sunday home games. All Sunday games begin at 5:35 PM. Gates open at 4:30 PM.
Adding to the jam-packed schedule of events surrounding the 20th Anniversary Season, the Wild Things are set to host the 2022 Frontier League All-Star Game. Festivities begin with the Three Rivers Celebrity Softball Game Saturday, July 16 at Wild Things Park. The event benefits The Heyward House: the Cameron Heyward Foundation and is hosted by former Pitt All-American Dorin Dickerson. It will be Team Pittsburgh versus Team World. Guests/players will be announced periodically on the Wild Things' social media as well as on the original announcement story here. First pitch for the game is slated for 7:05 p.m. and tickets are available now by clicking here.
The celebration continues Sunday, July 17, when IWC Wrestling brings Wrestling at the Ballpark to Wild Things Park. Tuesday, July 19, the Eli Young Band and Lakeview will be in concert, presented by Drusky Entertainment. Tickets for that concert are available now here.
Wednesday, July 20, the biggest stars of the Frontier League will compete in the 2022 Frontier League All-Star Game. The stars of the East Division, which is made up by the Evansville Otters, Florence Y’alls, Gateway Grizzlies, Joliet Slammers, Lake Erie Crushers, Schaumburg Boomers, Windy City ThunderBolts and the Wild Things, will battle the stars of the West Division, made up by the Empire State Greys, New Jersey Jackals, New York Boulders, Ottawa Titans, Québec Capitales, Sussex County Miners, Tri-City ValleyCats and the Trois-Rivières Aigles. Gates will open at 6 p.m. with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m.
Tickets for the All-Star Game are available now here. It will cost $10 to sit in the lower seating bowl of Wild Things Park and $5 for tickets in the bleacher sections (the 200 level) of the stadium.