Nestled in a valley on the west side of Grand Rapids, MI — surrounded by trees and homes — stands Sullivan Field — originally called Valley Field. Built in 1937 with WPA funds — this beautiful little ballpark has seen its glory days — bustling with activity and large crowds at ball games … featuring some great players, such as Al Kaline, Satchel Paige, Charley Maxwell, Kirk Gibson and many more. Recent decades have seen a decline in amateur baseball, and the park has decayed a bit — mainly, due to a lack of available funding. But now, the city of Grand Rapids and “Fans of Valley Field” — a 501(c)3 — are working hard to bring it back to its former splendor. The group is an enthusiastic group of volunteers, neighbors and residents formed in 2020. A recent millage allows for some much-needed updates, but they would like to do more. This place means so much to so many.
At least 70 young men who played here made it to the major leagues, four of whom became big league managers. In 1996, the park was renamed Sullivan Field — in honor of Bob Sullivan, who invested much of his time and effort — and money — into the park and other neighborhood park efforts. A former player and manager of the Sullivans ballclub — and a scout for the Detroit Tigers, Mr. Sullivan led his teams to four national amateur baseball championships.
He also hosted teams from the Netherlands at Valley Field and took his teams overseas to play.
Valley Field was also the home to many locally-sponsored teams — with the City Majors boasting some of the best talents around.
The long-gone Negro League was represented here by The Grand Rapids Black Sox. One of its players, Ted Rasberry, went on to own the Kansas City Monarchs and the Detroit Stars.
In addition to all of this rich history — and most importantly — the park has served as a safe, inviting place for children and people of all types and backgrounds — to play there — to cultivate lifelong friendships here — and build memories there.
Until very recently, this wonderful ballpark was only open during baseball games and remained locked when no games were being played. Many residents longed to wander out into the field — to feel the grass under their feet — to experience the beauty and splendor — and to soak up the rich history that emanates from the grandstand and the field. They were not given that opportunity — until now! The multitude of community events that have been hosted by Fans of Valley Field has allowed neighbors and citizens to build their own new memories and friendships there — with a wide variety of activities and a great diversity of people attending.
It’s the wish of the group to help restore this treasured place — maintaining its traditional look and feel while upgrading it — so that current and future generations might experience it. In addition to ballgames, they’ve activated the park with many other events — such as concerts (including the Grand Rapids Symphony), chili cook-offs and other community gatherings.
This 100% volunteer-based group is working with the city of Grand Rapids to help bring Sullivan Field — formerly Valley Field — back to its status as one of the most unique, beautiful ballparks — and spaces — in all of Grand Rapids and Michigan — if not the entire country. With some elbow grease, sweat — and a little love and money — the residents of West Michigan can all be proud of this crown jewel once more!
For more information, go to www.fansofvalleyfield.org — or join the Facebook group — Fans of Valley Field.