MARION — The City of Marion, Southern Illinois Miners and PONY Baseball Inc. announced Monday that the Colt League World Series will come to Marion in 2018 and 2019.
“Marion being the hub of the universe, it’s a logical place for the Colt World Series to be played,” Marion Mayor Bob Butler said.
Games will be played Friday, Aug. 3, through Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018, at Rent One Park, with four games each day from Friday through Sunday, three games Monday, two on Tuesday and from one to three games Wednesday. Players will arrive Thursday, Aug. 2. If possible, an “all-star” game will played on Wednesday evening, unless the field is needed to complete the tournament.
“Once kids walk through the gate and see where they get to play, it’s going to mean a lot to them,” said Marion Commissioner Anthony Rinella.
Rinella worked with PONY Baseball to make Marion the home of the Colt World Series, along with Mike Pinto of Southern Illinois Miners Baseball and Steve Miller, vice president of PONY North Zone.
“It is indeed a ‘world’ series because there will be teams from outside the U.S. playing in the tournament,” Miller said.
The tournament will consist of 10 teams: the winners of PONY north, south, east and west zones; one team from the Asia-Pacific zone; one from the Caribbean zone; one from the European zone; one from Mexico zone; one Marion team; and one area host team from Southern Illinois. Colt baseball is 16U, meaning the players are aged 16 and younger.
International teams will fly into St. Louis and be bused to Marion. Miller expects the team from the west zone to fly into St. Louis, too. He said the teams from the south and east usually drive and bring a large number of spectators with them. The Mexico team also tends to travel with a large crowd of spectators.
The players will attend a picnic and Miner’s ballgame at Rent One Park on Thursday evening. The goal is to give the players a “major league” experience, according to Miller and Miners’ Manager and COO Mike Pinto.
“My coaching career started in Hoffman Estates as a Bronco coach,” Pinto said.
Pinto added that 375 major league baseball players played PONY baseball as children, including Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez and Tony Gwinn. The Miners have three former PONY players, as well.
“We are going to have the very best 15- and 16-year-olds coming to Marion to play baseball,” Pinto said. “We are incredibly excited to be a part of this.”
Pinto also is excited to have the opportunity to showcase Rent One Park, Marion and all of Southern Illinois.
Shannon Johnson, of visitSI, said landing the Colt World Series is “extremely huge” for the area. Sports travelers spend $130 per day, which is a little more than other types of travelers.
Miller said spectators for this event in particular tend to arrive before the tournament and stay after it ends.
“Our goal for this event is to get them here and show them what we have,” Johnson said. “We also ask the community to come out and support us and the young men as they play.”
For 47 years, the Colt League World Series has been played in Lafayette, Indiana. Miller said the economic impact of the tournament to the area was more than $1 million. Attendance is expected to be between 10,000 and 13,000.
“It takes a lot to get an event like this off the ground,” Johnson said. “If we come knocking on your door, don’t run the other way,” Johnson said.
“Let’s get behind this. It’s a golden opportunity for Southern Illinois,” Miller said.