- change ups
Art Van Sports Complex names ex-pro ballplayer manager
A new sports venue that is expected to bring more tourism dollars into Kent County has its leadoff hitter.
The West Michigan Sports Commission has hired Bryan Baar to manage operations at the Art Van Sports Complex, which will have a dozen baseball and softball fields for youth and amateur tournaments when it’s completed on Ten Mile Road in Plainfield Township.
“Bryan Baar brings extensive experience in the travel baseball and softball industry and will put the complex on the map in creating and attracting top-notch travel tournaments that will also help grow West Michigan’s economy,” said WMSC President Mike Guswiler.
Baar, a Zeeland native, has trained and coached baseball and softball players for over 15 years, and he played professionally.
He was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers as a catcher in the 7th round of the 1989 amateur draft and played for four seasons in the team’s minor league system, reaching AAA Albuquerque in the Pacific Coast League in 1992.
Over those years, Baar averaged .244, hit 45 homers, drove in 190 runs, had an on-base percentage of .301 and a fielding percentage of .983.
He also played collegiately at Western Michigan University, where he lettered for three seasons and studied business management and accounting.
In 1994, Baar started Elite Baseball and Softball Training in Grand Rapids, at 1100 Hynes Ave. SW.
The business attracts more than 1,000 athletes between the ages of 5 to 22 every year.
Since its inception, Elite has had more than 400 of its students go to college, while 30 have signed professional contracts.
Sports Complex management
Baar will begin his tenure by overseeing the complex’s construction, which is projected to be completed next year.
He will also market the complex and create a tournament schedule.
Once this local field of dreams opens in 2015, Baar will manage all operations, including the tournaments.
“I am extremely excited to be given the opportunity to manage a first-class baseball and softball facility that will ultimately showcase the Grand Rapids area as a premier destination for baseball and softball teams throughout the Midwest,” Baar said.
“I am grateful and humbled that the West Michigan Sports Commission and its board has entrusted me with making the Art Van Sports Complex the place to play when teams are looking for tournament destinations in the future,” he added.
The complex has been projected to attract more than 75 events and 135,000 visitors here in its first five years of operation.
The venue is also expected to have a local economic impact of more than $20 million over those years, including $1.5 million each year for the area’s hotels.