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Apr, 2018

Schultz joins PONY Board of Directors

PONY Baseball wouldn’t be what it is today without the camaraderie inspired by the members of its leagues. For North Zone North Division Director John Schultz, life in the Kankakee Elks Pony League in Kankakee, Illinois was exactly that, a family affair, and it was during this time that he developed a love for youth baseball.

The Schultz family (from left to right): Corey, Debi, John, Chelsea and Jordan

“I just love youth baseball,” said Schultz. “I love the game. I love seeing everyone get involved.”

Fifteen years ago, Schultz became a board member with Kankakee Elks Pony League and eventually became the league’s president, while his wife Debi ran the league’s concessions and his sons Corey and Jordan played. Schultz’s commitment to running the day-to-day operations garnered the respect of then-Division Director Jim Hanley, whom Schultz still considers a mentor to this day, and prior to Hanley’s retirement, he recommended Schultz as a PONY Field Director.

So for the last 12 years – nine as a Field Director, a year as a Region Director and going on two as a Division Director – every PONY game takes him back to those “good ole” days in Kankakee.

“Every time I sit down and watch a game and watch these other kids play, I immediately put Corey on the mound and it’s just the nature,” said Schultz. “We lost some heartbreakers, but man oh man, did he pitch his heart out, and he’s still pitching his heart out today too.”

While Jordan later developed an affinity for hockey and soccer, John and Corey developed a bond through baseball. That bond grew into a passion, one that has inspired Corey (now 28) to continue his baseball career in the Chicago Suburban Baseball League in Beecher, Illinois. John is also an avid Chicago White Sox fan.

That bond was sacred, and John didn’t want anything sports-related to ever break what they had as father and son. So John never chose to coach Corey. He wanted to be a consultant and supporter, but not necessarily “coach dad.”

John and Corey play catch before one of Corey's games in 2012.

“I wanted him to look up to me as dad first,” said Schultz. “He could look up to the other coaches all he wants. In fact, there are a lot of memories he has with a lot of those other coaches.”

Besides enjoying the thrill of being a tournament director, including two Palomino Zone and Region tournaments, Schultz is entering his 13th year as an umpire. He’s umpired PONY league and tournament games, while also doing high school games. He argues that there just isn’t any view of the game that compares with that of the home plate umpire, which is why he loves it.

“Being an umpire allows you to see more of the game on the inside of the fence than what you would see on the outside of the fence,” said Schultz. “You have to watch everything. You got to watch the runner, the catcher, the pitcher, you’ve pretty much got to watch it all. If you’re working the infield, you’ve got to run out and see where that ball goes.”

Schultz takes pride his umpiring abilities, and he believes the umpiring crews in the PONY North Zone do an exceptional job. He really respected the crew that umpired last year’s Colt World Series, as well. As for what makes a good umpire, Schultz believes it really comes down to a few, simple things.

“Make sure that you see the play and make the right call,” said Schultz. “Don’t second guess the game.”

This past October, Schultz participated in his first-ever PONY board meeting, and like the other first timers on the board, he decided to be more of a listener than a commenter. He was motivated to make the right decision when voting on a particular topic and feel good about it once he cast his votes. Looking ahead, Schultz looks forward to next year, when he says he anticipates providing a glowing report about the Colt World Series in Marion, Illinois.

He has his sights set on cultivating more affiliated leagues and PONY field directors in the Midwest, where PONY has a developing presence that he would like to see grow. He also wants to see more already-affiliated PONY leagues participate in tournament play. With those aspirations and goals on his mind, Schultz is soaking it all in and appreciating taking a larger role within the PONY family.

“I love the opportunity that PONY has given me a chance to dedicate to youth baseball,” said Schultz. “It doesn’t get any better. You can’t put a price on it. The acronym speaks for itself – Protect Our Nation’s Youth.”

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