If your PONY affiliated league has already held its Opening Day, PONY wants to hear about it! Send us your photos, videos and a brief story about how it went at email@example.com so PONY can highlight it online. Also, you can post the photos, videos and story to any one or more of PONY’s social media accounts.
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If your league’s Opening Day is still on the horizon, here are a few ideas to help your league plan an awesome Opening Day:
Planning your PONY affiliated league’s Opening Day is an “all-hands-on-deck” effort, but it can be the one of the highlights of your league’s season. Among many other reasons, a league’s Opening Day is a great way to get everyone together, enjoy some fun at the ball park and host activities that fall outside the realm of busy, regular season weeknights. Opening Days are also great events to pull those in the community together to show them what your league and PONY baseball or softball is all about.
Player Parade – This may take some planning beforehand among the league’s Board and other volunteers, but a player parade is the closest event that can make a youth baseball or softball feel like he or she is in the big leagues. Communicate with teams beforehand that each player should come fully uniformed at a designated time with the rest of his or her team. Teams should be organized by age group in an area out of harm’s way. They should proceed onto the largest field in an orderly fashion, so loved ones can snap a few pictures. If your league or team has sponsor or team-specific banners or flags, make sure to have the players carry them as they walk. A league Board member should announce the teams by name and the names of the coaches and team moms as they proceed along the field.
Opening Remarks – The League President should welcome everyone to the Opening Day once all of the teams are announced and present on the field. This is an appropriate time to thank everyone involved, including, most important, the players’ parents and the league sponsors. It is essential for the League President to present him or herself in front of the teams’ and the parents to kickoff the season in the right fashion. Be positive, encourage the crowd and build camaraderie that even though it is a competitive environment, the league is for the benefit of the kids in a positive and safe atmosphere. This will only benefit the entire PONY experience. This would also be an appropriate time to have any guest speakers speak. Guest speakers may include your league’s local PONY Director(s), a major sponsor representative, a local official or dignitary, special volunteer or former player who has graduated on.
Ceremonial First Pitches – Following the Opening Remarks it would be appropriate to then have anyone who gave an opening remark to throw out a ceremonial first pitch. Again, this can include your league’s local PONY Director(s), a major sponsor representative, a local official or dignitary, special volunteer or former player who has graduated on, but your league may also consider local military members, civil service groups, members from your local police and fire department, etc. This is a very nice gesture on behalf of the league and can be something that person remembers for a long time. Make sure to have a league member take photos and video to use on the league’s website and social media accounts.
Recognition of successful tournament teams – Just like any team celebrates a championship prior to its first game of the following season, this is an opportune time to recognize your league’s tournament teams who went on to have success in the postseason. For example, if one or many of your league’s all-star teams won a Section, Region, Zone and/or World Series title, this is a great time to recognize the team(s) before the next season is underway and the focus is on 2017.
National Anthem – Culminating the Player Parade, Opening Remarks and Ceremonial first pitches with the singing of the National Anthem is an appropriate way to begin the Opening Day. Having a locally known performer, league member or student volunteer from the community is a nice touch to show patriotism. This is another moment that the singer may remember forever and positively remember your league and PONY for.
Fun Time – Especially if your league plans on holding full or partial games all day during your Opening Day, the league will need to find activities and ways to entertain the players while they wait for their game. PONY and MLB encourages your league to participate in MLB’s Pitch, Hit & Run and Junior Home Run Derby, which are two fun activities that the kids will enjoy competing in. Get creative and seek involvement from your league’s sponsors or other organizations in the community to be involved during the day. This day is about everyone having fun together and building league pride!
Fundraising – During fun time, encourage parents to participate in any league-organized raffles or other fundraisers that have prizes and announce the winners at the day’s end. Have a full crew manning the concession stand and unveil any new menu items. Bringing in outside food or drink vendors can also be a plus. If your league has a souvenir stand or something of the like, make sure it is fully stocked and manned, as this is arguably the best time to sell and promote all of your league’s apparel. If your league has joined DICK’S Team Sports HQ, this is an opportune time to promote your league’s online fan wear store as well.
Picture day – With teams together and in uniform, there isn’t a better day than Opening Day to have picture day, which can sometimes interrupt a team’s regular season. It can be challenging to schedule around each team’s games, so coordinate and communicate each team’s scheduled picture time with the photographer and coaching staff prior to Opening Day. These photos can also populate your league’s website and social media accounts.
Games – Depending upon your league and facility’s size, it may be a challenge to hold full games for every single team with fields possibly being used for other events. The league’s Board can decide if games should be shortened and considered exhibitions to give everyone a chance to get in a few innings, but still make playing worthwhile. It wouldn’t seem right without having games on an Opening Day, but consider the many variables as the schedule is built.
External media and internal coverage – Invite the local news media to cover your league’s Opening Day, considering its impact in the community. Receiving more media attention means more awareness for your league, which can attract new families and spread the word of PONY baseball or softball. With so many things going on across a facility all day, it is best to form a team of photographers and/or videographers to cover your league’s Opening Day for your league’s website and social media channels. This content can be used for your league’s continued marketing efforts.
Closing – Your league needs some way to end the day. Whether that’s with a concert put on by a local musical group, fireworks or something as simple as the League President making another announcement thanking everyone for participating in the Opening Day. This is an opportune time to announce when special league events will be taking place, when all-star tryouts and selections will be determined, the proposed start date for fall ball, etc.
PONY wishes you nothing but the greatest success for your league’s Opening Day, and again, we want to hear all about it!