PONY League overcomes major adversity for big win

SAN JOSE, Calif.

This is a true comeback kid story with a lot of kids. The PONY Baseball League in San Jose came to me three years ago when they lost all their registration fees, but they didn't give up. This year the team got the sweetest victory of all.

There was a lot of heartache the last time we visited San Jose's Blossom Valley. Hundreds of kids were about to begin a new season of PONY League Baseball, when they found out all their money was gone.

Back in March 2009, Greg Figueroa from Blossom Valley told us, "We got the common reaction that this company is stealing from our kids."

The company was "Count Me In" of Bellevue, Washington. It was hired to collect registration fees for the PONY League. Hundreds of families paid, but "Count Me In" kept the funds and then, went bankrupt.

In 2009, Chris Heck from Blossom Valley said, "That's what's really sad about this, it's taking away from kids."

It was a huge loss and $30,000 was gone. They had no money for fields, umpires, or uniforms -- threatening a 30-year tradition of PONY baseball in Blossom Valley, except the families did not give up. The families contacted 7 On Your Side, I reported about their plight, and the community stepped up to the plate.

"Everybody contributes and volunteers, and that's really the strength of this league," said Dave Donnelly from Blossom Valley in March 2009.

"We're not going to let the league go under," said Figueroa.

Volunteers fixed up fields and coached the teams. Now, three years later, there's an amazing comeback. The Blossom Valley All-Star team went all the way to the PONY League World Series this summer and they won it all.

"It's the first time in 40 years that a Northern California team from PONY Baseball won the World Series," said team manager Jeff Siri.

Their victory was even sweeter when the San Francisco Giants honored the young champions in a pre-game ceremony at AT&T Park. Giants announcer Renel Brooks-Moon, introduced the team as, "The first team to win a World Series in Bay Area PONY baseball history." Each kid received a signed baseball from pitcher Matt Cain, a chance to meet the players up close, and to feel the glow of the spotlight on the big field.

"It was just a great experience," said 10-year-old Jason Siri Jaden Belardus.

"Our coaches said we earned it and we really did," said 10-year-old Coleman Brigman.

These boys were just 5 or 6 years old when the league lost all that money. Parents say it brought them new strength.

"Our whole league was really bummed out. We kind of went, 'OK, what now?' and then it was, 'OK, let's try to rebuild,'" said Jennifer Reulman, a Blossom Valley team parent.

"Our parents, every weekend, are out there working, whether it's pulling weeds or umpiring games," said Brandon Belardus, the Blossom Valley Assistant Coach.

Parents coached the boys to the big victory. They won 20 straight games before they defeated the Puerto Rican team 10-1 to win the World Series title. The boys who kept the league going three years ago, paved the way for the boys this year to play to victory.

The boys said they never doubted this team had a kind of magic, partly because they'd overcome such adversity three years ago. But they said, it is also because their coaches made them run two hours a day.

They want to thank volunteers and sponsors who helped catapult them to the top.

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