As we prepare for 2020, I’d like to take a moment to review 2019 – it was another great year for youth and amateur sports in West Michigan!
ART VAN SPORTS COMPLEX WOWS USA SOFTBALL
The USA Softball Men’s Open Fast Pitch National Championship was held at the Art Van Sports Complex Aug. 23-25, the first time this national tournament came to West Michigan. As one would expect, it was a great success. Men’s fast pitch softball is not as popular as it was in the past, but don’t tell that to the teams that were here! The display of talent and enthusiasm for this great game (the second highest level of fast pitch softball) was evident from the first pitch.
Fast pitch softball is a special game with an unparalleled history when compared to its slow pitch and modified counterparts. Talk with any of the players, and you will hear stories about playing against some of the best players in the game, generations of father/son player combinations on each team, and the family atmosphere that surrounds a fast pitch game – whether it’s a local league game or a national tournament. And that is why this event was perfect for the Art Van Sports Complex.
Playing at a venue such as the Art Van Complex brings a whole new level of expectation to players, managers and staff. Upon arriving at this venue, you can feel that it is a special place. However, while the actual facilities are great, it takes a great group of people to make it work. For example:
Maintenance staff was incredible. After every game, the field was taken care of and prepared as best as possible for the next game. Not many venues do that, and to see staff taking pride in their work is always great to see. Trust me, not every venue has a crew that can make a straight line or fix a pitcher’s mound in a timely fashion. The maintenance crew did an outstanding job and made sure every game was special.
Tournament staff made it feel like a national tournament. Tournament staff Bryan Baar and Dan Parsaca created an atmosphere so the teams knew they were playing at a national level. Their communication and effort with the teams was noticeable and appreciated. Not many people work as hard as they do when it comes to tournament play.
Details mattered. People like Umpire Tony Garza helped manage details, from umpire coordination to staff food, which was spectacular. He didn’t have to do this – he chose to do so. Everyone needs a teammate like Tony Garza in their life.
USA Softball of Michigan came to help. Whether it was Executive Director, Jerry Hanson; Umpire-In-Chief, Bryan Smith; or Grand Rapids area umpires such as Kevin Billiau and Robert Hicks who served as scorekeepers and did some announcing, USA Softball of Michigan provided another level of service that made the event that much more special.
In the end, the Kingsley Snappers were the Gold Bracket National Champions, and the Frankenmuth Tiffanys were the Silver Bracket National Champions. The games were competitive, the organization was solid, the umpires were stellar, and the complex was well received.
I was reminded time and time again why West Michigan continues to be a destination when it comes to sporting events, especially with a venue like the Art Van Complex – it’s the people behind the scenes that can take a national championship event and create a level of hospitality that is second to none. Showcasing a combination like that in West Michigan is simply awesome.
USA Softball and the West Michigan Sports Commission is a great team that is only getting started! Tune in this weekend when we co-host the Men’s Class D Northern Slow Pitch National Championship Aug. 30-Sept. 2, featuring 25 to 30 teams and 300 players from across the country. Admission is $7 for a day pass and $15 for a weekend pass, with children under 5 free. Tickets can be purchased at the Art Van Sports Complex.
Art Van Sports Complex won bids to host the USA Softball Men’s Open East Fast Pitch and Class D Slow Pitch national tournaments in 2020 and 2021!
Most people interact with sports, and from not too far a distance. Even before pre-school,
USA Softball and the West Michigan Sports Commission is a great team that is only getting started