Dating back to 1898 when the first sanctioned baseball game was ever played in Puerto Rico, the island nation has been a hotbed for baseball talent.
From Hiram Bithorn, the first Puerto Rican player to break in to the Major Leagues in 1942 as a pitcher with the Chicago Cubs, to Roberto Clemente, the first Major Leaguer of Puerto Rican descent to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, to 2015 American League Rookie of the Year, Carlos Correa, and 2016 World Series standout, Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor, Puerto Rico has sent many of its nation’s stars to the highest level of professional competition in the United States.
This month, we celebrate the birthday of PONY’s Puerto Rican league affiliate, Boy’s Baseball of Puerto Rico.
In 1954, Mr. Antonio R. Barceló, Esq., Mr. Jorge A. Casas, Mr. Rafael Martínez Lázaro, Esq., and Mr. Edgar Martínez, Esq. created the Borinquen Pony League. Borinquen is another name for Puerto Rico, and it may also refer to several geographical areas in Caguas, Aguadilla and Oriente. Barceló became the league’s first President, and he remained in the position for over 16 years.
A photo of Antonio R. Barceló, founder and first President of Boy's Baseball of Puerto Rico, and the league's first sanction application from 1961.
After an exceptional 12-year career in the Major Leagues, which included six All-Star Game selections and seven Gold Glove Awards, Victor “Power” Pellot became a President of Boy’s Baseball of Puerto Rico. Pellot, the second Major Leaguer of Puerto Rican descent, played first base for six different teams and recorded a .284 batting average with 126 home runs and 658 runs batted in. He retired to Guaynabo, where the city built and named a ballpark after him.
Pellot is widely considered one of the best Latin-born players to ever play first base in the Majors. He passed away in 2005 at the age of 78.
In 1961, the organization changed its name to Boy’s Baseball of Puerto Rico and it first affiliated with PONY Baseball and Softball. By 1972, it was incorporated in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico as a non-profit organization with its main offices in Caguas.
Photos from Boy's Baseball of Puerto Rico's office in Caguas:
1970 was a prominent year for Boy’s Baseball of Puerto Rico. The municipality of Cataño became the first PONY team from outside the continental United States to participate in the Bronco World Series, which was held that year in Chesapeake, Virginia. Cataño won the Bronco World Series 3-2 over Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in the Championship Game, as Antonio Fadhell scored the game-winning run in the ninth inning off a Pedro Medina base hit that included an error. San Juan also participated in Puerto Rico’s first-ever Colt World Series in Lafayette, Indiana.
Cataño's participation in 1970 was a proud moment for Boy's Baseball of Puerto Rico and the nation as a whole. 47 years later, these 10-year-olds were trailblazers for their PONY program and many other youth from the Island.
Defending Bronco World Series Champion Cataño advanced to Puerto Rico’s first Pony World Series appearance in 1971, but the team was eliminated after a 3-2 loss to eventual champion Orange, California. Since the early 1970s, Puerto Rico has become a juggernaut at PONY’s Caribbean Zone tournaments and is an annual contender at PONY’s World Series events.
Puerto Rico has won 33 PONY World Series event titles (Mustang – four, Bronco – 11, Pony-13 – two, Pony – seven, Colt – seven, Palomino – one), the most of any outside nation, and only trails California for the most championships among U.S. states (85). Caguas also had the prestigious honor of hosting the 2005 and 2006 Palomino World Series.
In 1984, Caguas won Puerto Rico its first Pony World Series title, defeating Miami, Florida 3-0 in the Championship Game. It was the first of Puerto Rico's now seven PLWS titles.
Boy’s Baseball of Puerto Rico has had a storied tradition of sending its players on to the big leagues throughout the decades, including recent Hall of Fame inductee Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, who played in Vega Baja growing up. Additionally, other MLB players who have since retired from the game include Sandy Alomar, Sr. and Jr., Roberto Alomar, Carlos Baerga, Orlando Cepeda, Alex Cora and Mike Lowell. Lindor and Correa have also had exceptional starts to their careers, as well.
In addition, the following former PONY Puerto Rican players who will participate in the World Classic in March 2017 include: OF Angel Pagán (San Francisco), LHP Alex Claudio (Texas), RHP Joe Jiménez (Detroit), INF Carlos Correa (Houston), and INF Francisco Lindor (Cleveland). The team will be coached by former Boy’s Baseball of Puerto Rico player Joey Cora, who, after an 11-year career with four different teams, has recently accepted the job as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ third-base coach.
Come June, keep watch of former Boy’s Baseball of Puerto Rico standout Heliot Ramos, who was the Wilson Sports Batting Champion at the 2014 Pony World Series for Puerto Rico, who finished in third place. Ramos was named the Star of the Game at the Under Armour All-America Game at Wrigley Field last summer, as we went three-for-three with a double short of the cycle. A senior at Alfonso Casta Martinez High School in Maunabo, Ramos is a top prospect in the 2017 MLB Draft, despite giving a verbal pledge to Florida International University to play baseball. Ramos is the younger brother of Red Sox Triple-A catcher Henry Ramos.
Ramos (left) receiving his Wilson Sports Batting Champion award from PONY President and CEO Abe Key. Representing Levittown, Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, Ramos finished the 2014 PLWS with a .650 BA, .667 on-base %, 1.150 slugging %, two HRs, nine RBIs, 13 hits, four doubles, and seven runs scored.
Over the decades, Boy’s Baseball of Puerto Rico has grown to include 17 affiliate leagues, representing different regions and towns all over Puerto Rico, including San Juan, Bayamón, Mayagüez, Toa Baja, Coamo, Dorado, Trujillo Alto, and Ponce. Following PONY’s two-year age divisions, Boy’s Baseball of Puerto Rico offers players Shetland-age through Palomino-age the opportunity to play the game. Its organization’s objective is to use baseball as a means or instrument to instill respect for law and authority in youth, for youth to do well in school and to be outstanding citizens.
In recent years, over 3,000 players participate in the league, on average. The league is in good hands with its recently elected management team of Mr. Gustavo Santiago, President, Mr. Eliseo Serrano, Vice President, Mr. Juan Antonio González, Treasurer, Dr. Myriam Burgos, Secretary, 13 Directors and Caribbean Zone Director Angel Suarez, who also lives in Puerto Rico, as they have many years of experience in developing baseball development on the Island, as well as in management and education.
Photos recently taken, as Boy's Baseball of Puerto Rico has already began its 2017 league season. Good luck to all teams and players!
“Boy’s Baseball of Puerto Rico has been a model member of PONY since 1961,” stated Abraham Key, President and CEO of PONY Baseball and Softball. “We are honored to have them as a member of our organization and for their many years of dedicated service to the youth of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean Zone.”