By John Raffel Amateur baseball returns to the Art Van Sports Complex starting on Aug. 23. It will be Sunday baseball for a six-week period, ending in early October, area amateur baseball official Chad Kryska indicated. The games at Art Van are a part of the Grand Rapids Amateur Baseball League. It will be ages 9 through 16. Teams will play Sunday doubleheaders starting from noon until dark. “This will be our fourth year of fall ball,” Kryska said. “We’ve had approximately 40 teams total. They’re all over the Grand Rapids area and even up north a little bit.” Fall baseball takes advantage of seasonable fall weather, Kryska noted. Standings and records are not kept during fall baseball. “It’s just for fun and to keep the boys playing a little more,” Kryska said. “The weather is usually decent. We don’t usually have issues.” The competition “is broken up, it’s not like summer competition,” Kryska said. “But it’s pretty decent. We get a big mixture of kids from all over.” Some of the players will be in football during the week. “Some just choose to play baseball,” Kryska said. The last weekend is Oct. 4. Kryska is also organizing tryouts for his Flames baseball organization. Age groups are 8 through 18. Tryouts are set Saturday for 8-13 year olds and Sunday for 14 to 18. Details are on flames-sports.com for interested individuals. Tryouts are at Gezon Park in Wyoming for 8U to 13U and Belknap Park in Grand Rapids for the older age groups. Age groups are based on age for boys trying out on May 1, 2016.
By John Raffel It was All-Star weekend at the Art Van Sports Complex with the best players in seven age brackets squaring off for championship honors. Pool play games were staged Saturday and Sunday with title contests on Sunday. Teams were split into 9U 10U, 11U, 12U, 13U, 14U and 16U age divisions. Gray defeated Navy 5-3 in the 16U title game. Black defeated Gray 15-12 in the 13U title tilt while Royal edged Navy 8-7 for the 14U gold bracket title. In other title games, it was Royal over Navy 11-2 in the 9U bracket, and Gray over Royal 12-4 in the 11U divisions. One of the 16U Gray players was from Zach Brechting of Hopkins. He said the team consisted of players from all over the state, including Grand Rapids and Caledonia. The Gray team drew a pool play bye and wound up 2-1. Game Day USA determined the makeup of the teams, Brechting noted. “It went really well,” he said. “Our team was unbelievable. I wish we had a travel ball team like this.” Brechting pitched and played first base. The team was able to exceed despite not having any organized practice time. The Gray team meshed together very well. “Just playing baseball was fun,” Brechting said. The wind factor, especially on Sunday was bad, Brechting said, adding that it impacted the game “especially on infield,” and in other areas of the game. Game officials faced threatening weather on Sunday but were able to get all the games in before the rains came.
By John Raffel Game Day USA called it a season at Art Van Sports Complex over the weekend with the two-day All-Star event featuring age groups from across the state in divisions 9U through 16U. Jim Rodriguez was the tournament director for the weekend. Game Day USA had its world champions the previous weekend including in the Rockford area where titlists in various age divisions were crowned. Aug. 1-2 was all-star weekend, Rodriguez said. Players were nominated from coaches by other teams and then got together to play in competition on Saturday and Sunday. Game Day USA also had all-star tournaments in Cincinnati and Glen Ellyn, Ill., over the weekend. Teams that participated at Art Van came from all over the Midwest. Rodriguez indicated that Game Day USA officials were impressed with the quality of play over the weekend. He also expressed satisfaction with how the Art Van Sports Complex was able to accommodate Game Day USA tournaments, including the all-star over the weekend. “It’s a great facility here and Art Van has done a great job in maintaining the fields and getting them ready for our tournaments,” Rodriguez said. While other events are scheduled for Art Van for August and September, Rodriguez indicated that Game Day USA was done for the season and wouldn’t be using the facilities again for the rest of the year. Game Day USA will be coming back with events at Art Van Sports Complex starting in the spring, he added. Game Day USA and the United States Speciality Sports Association were the two primary weekend users of the complex this summer and spring. USSSA has indicated it will continue to have events August and September at Art Van.
By John Raffel Many teams had the thrill of making the title game of the Game Day USA World championships over the weekend at Art Van Sports Complex. That included the Motor City Bulldogs who lost 6-1 to the HBF ,Maroons/Easton team Sunday night in the 11U title game. “They’re just a solid all-around ball team,” Dan Hight, who was manager for the Bulldogs, said. “They had great coaching and good kids.” The Bulldogs were 5-0 prior to the title game “We played great,” he said. “We had a nice 1-0 extra inning game in pool play. We were down 4-0 in the first inning of our semifinal game. Our kids responded and battled back and wound up pulling out the victory 5-4 in a great ballgame.” Hight declined to talk about any individual players. “They all played well,” he said. Also on Sunday in the finals, for 15U, Elite 626 beat the Homestead Ranchers 3-1 in the gold bracket. Team All-American won the silver bracket game 15-0 over Detroit Diamond Jazz. The 15U division aso featured two brackets. The Lockport Vipers beat the Madison Black Thunder 10-4 for the title while Ohio Elite beat the Blue Jays 9-5 in the gold bracket.
By John Raffel It was quite a baseball extravaganza over the weekend with the Game Day USA National Championships at Art Van Complex and other area diamonds. John Binek, tournament director, said there were 101 teams competing in various age brackets from Thursday through Sunday. “It was a beautiful weekend of weather and a great facility here at Art Van Sports complex,” Binek said. “We had a good staff here and a great staff from Game Day USA. It’s been a fantastic weekend.” Binek estimates there were more than 2,000 persons at the complex for skills competition. The teams included one from Hanoi, Vietnam, which played in the 16U division. The team didn’t win but still made a name for itself during the weekend. “I think they had a great time, without a doubt,” Binek said. “We had a team in from Canada who had an excellent time as well.” Those were the only two foreign teams competing in the tournament. “Vietnam has come before,” Binek said. “I think it might have the same team that came at a younger age. The Canadian team has played in a couple of our tournaments.” For the Hanoi team, it was the same type of baseball, even though it was in America. Other teams had a unique reaction to the Hanoi squad, Binek recalled. “They were received very warmly,” he said. The competition during the tournament was impressive. But Binek was especially touched with an event Friday night at Fifth Third Park during a West Michigan Whitecaps game. “The parade of teams on the field and the teams getting announced when they got to home plate, that and between the skills competition, there were a lot of smiling faces from a lot of kids having a great time,” Binek said.