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The DICK'S Sporting Goods PONY League World Series

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May, 2023

Meet the PONY World Series interns, including a World Series alumnus

As many kids are spending their summers on baseball diamonds, a new wave of DICK’S Sporting Goods PONY League World Series interns begin their work on the 2023 event. For most, this is either their first taste of the World Series or their closest look behind the scenes, but for Nick Popielarczyk, it’s just a new role at an event he has been a key part of for years.

Baseball has always been a large part of Popielarczyk’s life, as he recalled that he started playing in his backyard as soon as he could pick up a bat. Even before he could reach the organized baseball level, he was making memories from the game.

“One of my earliest memories is not from an organized game, but rather from playing in my Nana’s living room. We would play with a foam ball and bat. I think I broke every lampshade and picture frame in the living room at least once.”

Eventually, he retired from his Nana’s living room and joined Canon-Mac Youth Baseball Association’s Shetland program at four years old. This is where his love for the camaraderie of an organized game started and where he figured out what position he wanted to play.

“Initially, I played everywhere. When I started to play more travel baseball, I played a lot more outfield. As I got older into high school and college, I played first base and pitched.”

He not only dabbled in what position he played in baseball but he did in other sports as well. Popielarczyk played football for a year, wrestled for a few years, and played basketball from fourth grade until freshman year of high school, but those sports were not what he loved most.

“I enjoyed those sports, but their main purpose was to keep me in shape for baseball season so I always knew that baseball was my first choice.”

Popielarczyk is a former participant in the DSGPLWS, as he was on the 2017 Washington County, Pennsylvania, squad. Even though he grew up in Washington County, he had never attended the World Series until the year before he played in it to watch a couple of his friends take the field. In 2016, Canon-Mac Youth Baseball was integrated with Washington Youth Baseball's PONY age division to form the Founder's League, giving him a shot to make the roster the following summer.

“The experience that I had at the World Series watching my friends and that atmosphere let me know that I wanted to do whatever I had to do to be a part of something like that. I was lucky enough to be a part of the team that next year.”

Not only did Popielarczyk make the team and participate in the World Series, he dominated it, recording at least a hit in all three games. In Washington County’s opening game against the Netherlands, he went 2-for-2 with two singles and a walk, scoring one run in the process. He also was the starting pitcher that game, going four complete innings while allowing one earned run on four hits and striking out five batters. Washington County won the game 9-2, and he earned the win for his efforts on the mound. 

“I was lucky enough to start our first game against the Netherlands as our pitcher and hearing all of the fans at Lew Hays supporting our team was amazing. It let me know that this was the reason I started playing baseball, and it’s what led me to continue playing baseball.”

Game two against Covina, California, was nothing new for Popielarczyk, as he went 1-for-3 with a single, but unfortunately, Washington County fell to the eventual champions 10-0. In his final game of the tournament, he went out with a bang, recording a 3-for-4 effort with two RBI against a tough Brownsville, Texas, team. Even though the 4-3 loss put Washington County out of the tournament, he ended with an impressive .667 batting average. 

For his efforts with the bat, he took home both the John D. Voytek Memorial Award, given to the leading hitter on the Washington County, Pennsylvania, team, and the Wilson Sporting Goods Batting Champion Award, given to the top hitter at the DSGPLWS.

“It was honestly one of my fondest memories of baseball. Even though the results might not have gone our way, it was an incredible experience. Getting to know not only my teammates throughout the summer but to connect with baseball players from all around the world was a unique experience that I can’t say I have even been able to do since then.” 

The baseball journey continued for Popielarczyk as he went into Canon-McMillan High School and made the varsity baseball team as a sophomore. His success was abundant as he was a member of the 2018 Pennsylvania 6A State Championship team.

“Being a member of the state championship team is an experience that I will never forget. It was my first year on varsity as a sophomore and I was one of the youngest kids on a team full of seniors and juniors. This could have been disastrous for me at such a young age, but it turned out to be even better than expected.”

Since he was so young on a team of older starters, he might not have been given as many chances as he wished, but it formed him into a student of the game and an overall better baseball player.

“I will always say that I learned more about the game and the mental side of baseball more than anything that year. Being around a group of seniors that were a collection of four-year starters or all-conference winners taught me so much about work ethic and what it actually took to succeed in baseball. Working so hard that whole season to ultimately hoist that trophy was one of my most rewarding baseball memories.”

When asked to compare the state title season to the PONY League World Series, Popielarczyk gave an honest answer as to which he liked more.

“I think that the PLWS sticks out to me more personally because of how unique that experience was. Two years before I played in the World Series, kids from my rec league were never a part of Washington County’s team, so it was never a thought,” he stated. “Being able to not only play very well in the Series but to be a leader on a team full of my friends that I grew up playing baseball with was awesome.”

This answer is not surprising, as he has been involved with the World Series every year since he participated in it. He started volunteering in 2018, one year after being on the field.

“Looking at the event now, I realize how much hard work gets put in by the volunteers and how they make everything run in the Series. It was something I never thought about as a player, but as a fellow volunteer, I now understand how important it is to have a group of people that truly care about the event and want to make it the best experience that they can for everyone in attendance.”

His college recruiting process started shortly after the state title run. He was in contact with several schools that caught wind of his success on the Steel City Wildcats summer team, including Ashland University in Ohio.

“I ultimately decided to go to Ashland after doing a prospect camp for them just before the start of my senior year. I went on a visit and knew that Ashland was going to offer me everything that I had been looking for at that time.”

Even though his experience at the World Series happened years prior to deciding to go to Ashland, Popielarczyk recalled that the DSGPLWS was the catalyst for his interest in playing at a higher level.

“Playing in the PLWS was one of my first steps to thinking about playing college baseball. Being able to say that I not only competed but succeeded playing against international competition gave me the confidence to pursue baseball at the next level.”

His first collegiate hit was recorded April 3, 2022, against Lake Erie College. He is currently still enrolled at Ashland and is heading into his senior year as a sports management major and business management minor.

When asked what makes baseball great, Popielarczyk took some words of advice from his father.

“Baseball is a great sport for so many reasons. I could go on for hours talking about the life lessons I have learned through baseball, but the most important one I have learned is the understanding that failure will happen at times, but it is all about how you rebound and move past that. There will always be things in life that we do not succeed at. It is a harsh truth, but baseball has taught me that you can fail, get back up, work hard, and succeed. As my dad has told me so many times, ‘Baseball is the only time you can fail seven out of 10 times and be considered great, so keep working hard, you never know what could happen.’ It is a sport that can make you feel untouchable one day and humbly brings you back down to earth the next day with no explanation. It is all about how you respond as a person and how you look to push forward to grow.”

Two more interns join him this summer, and even though their experience with the DSGPLWS might not be as vast, their love for sports is all the same.

Caylin Angel just finished her freshman year at Washington & Jefferson College after traveling there from Wheeling, West Virginia. 

Her first love is not baseball, but rather volleyball, and the way she fell for the sport was by taking a chance.

“I got into volleyball in sixth grade. In fifth grade before going to middle school, we were all recommended to sign up for at least one club or sport, and I wanted to try volleyball, and I have loved it ever since.”

She played three seasons as a defensive specialist/libero at Wheeling Park High School, recording 777 career digs, 102 aces, 16 kills, and 29 assists. This was enough to get her noticed by W&J College.

“When looking for colleges, I wasn’t really picky. I was looking at bigger and smaller schools. I also wasn't sure if I wanted to play volleyball, but I knew that I couldn't play at the Division I level, so going through my recruiting process, I was looking at DII and DIII schools. After touring a few, and finding out what I know I did not like, I found W&J. I chose to go there because of the small school atmosphere. It is important to me to make connections with professors and participate in sports, while also staying on top of my work. When I went and toured W&J, I felt like I could excel both academically and athletically.”

It turns out that she was correct as W&J has brought her abundant opportunities to grow as both a student and athlete. She worked for the athletic department at W&J this past year and made quite the impression as she landed this internship with her hard work and dedication as well as her photography skills.

“My liking for photography has impacted my life, allowing me to meet so many wonderful people who are there for me and support me. It really has been an amazing field to get into, but also helps break you out of your comfort zone.”

Looking back on her freshman year at college, she is satisfied with what she has accomplished and is looking forward to an exciting next three years.

“Having just finished my first full year at W&J, I can confidently say that I really enjoy it. I enjoy the people, the events, and campus life. It is a great place to pursue a degree while also making connections with so many people.”

Angel is currently a communications major and is considering adding a minor in either religious studies or computing and information studies. 

She hopes to help more kids make memories at the DSGPLWS this year and find an impactful love for sports.

“Sports have impacted my life by allowing me to be the person I am today. I grew up with a lot of brothers, and we all were heavily involved within the sports world, so it’s just a part of who I am at this point,” said Angel. “I am most looking forward to all of the opportunities this internship will provide, along with meeting amazing people who can help me grow individually and professionally.”

The other intern, Kaci Alderson, re-joins the DSGPLWS team for her second consecutive year. Alderson is a member of the Mercyhurst University softball team and is a rising senior. Even though she started playing softball at such a young age, her love for the game has been unwavering.

“I have been playing softball ever since I was seven years old. I played on the 10u Chartiers-Houston rec team and was the youngest one there,” Alderson stated. “After a year of playing rec ball, I went straight to travel ball at eight years old and was once again the youngest on the team. It was that way my entire travel ball career until my final year playing when I was the oldest one.”

She made quite a name for herself while attending Chartiers-Houston High School. As just a freshman playing shortstop, she batted .560 and tallied 32 runs scored. She finished her career with a .567 batting average and landed herself a spot on Mercyhurst University’s softball team. 

“I chose Mercyhurst mainly for the athletic aspect initially. I play softball and Mercyhurst offered me everything that I wanted at the time,” Alderson said. “I had a few other schools looking at me but Mercyhurst was the best fit. It also turned out to be a great academic fit for me with smaller class sizes and ability to bond with professors.” 

Mercyhurst has helped her grow as a person, student, and an athlete. During her time there, Alderson believes the school has shaped her into a "stronger and more well-rounded person." She has made friends that will last a lifetime and connections with professors that will help her in her future. 

Alderson plans to graduate next spring with a degree in sports business management and finance, as well as a minor in creative writing. 

“My goal is to work for the Pittsburgh Steelers. I love football and my ultimate career goal is to make it to the NFL. I love writing, but I don’t think I want to pursue journalism as a career. I’m not entirely sure what I want to do, but I want to be involved in the day-to-day process of building the team, such as the draft, free agency, contract signings, etc.”

Alderson is also no stranger to the World Series, as she and her family have come to Lew Hays PONY Field to watch the event for many years.

“I have been attending the World Series ever since I could remember. My parents know a bunch of people at PONY HQ and we would always get passes to go down and watch. I was never the kid that was messing around on the hill or walking around the park; I was always in the bleachers with my eyes glued on the game.” 

Last summer, Alderson got to see more of the day-to-day preparation work for the World Series as an intern at PONY Headquarters.

“A large reason why I came back this summer is because of the people I was able to work with. I learned many invaluable lessons of the business world all while being able to interact with friendly professionals.”

Alderson and Popielarczyk both have had plenty of DSGPLWS experience, and when asked what the World Series means to Washington County, both had similar answers.

“I think that it is a very important event for coming together as a community,” said Popielarczyk. It brings together the entire county to support a group of young athletes that these fans may have never met, but because they are representing where we are from, we support them unconditionally. This event shows the pride of the people here and how much we value making these great memories for our athletes.”

Alderson continued, “There are few events that can bring people of so many different backgrounds in a community together, but the World Series does just that. It’s awesome to see people of all different walks of life come together for a sporting event.”

The 2023 World Series runs from August 11-16 at Lew Hays PONY Field in Washington, Pennsylvania. Please visit for more information.

The DICK'S Sporting Goods PONY League World Series is an international youth baseball tournament played annually at Lew Hays PONY Field in Washington, PA. The World Series annually attracts 25,000 fans and contributes over $4 million to the regional economy, with all games live streamed internationally via The tournament represents PONY Baseball's 13- and 14-year-old age division. PONY has over 500,000 players ages 3-23 in more than 50 countries. More information is available at

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