Bob Vander Heyden
Bob Vander Heyden is many things to Rockford softball – a pioneer, complex owner and manager, team sponsor, tournament sponsor. His biggest claim to fame, literally, is being responsible for building Rockford’s first softball complex. In 1969, Vander Heyden and partner Bill Rader rebuilt an old supper club situated on a five-acre island in the middle of the Rock River into the Ace of Diamonds. He ran The Ace with great success from 1970 through 1980, when he sold out to Rader and moved to California.
The Ace was affiliated with the ASA that first year. In 2972, he hooked up with Dewey Everts and the USSSA.
“I preferred the 65-foot baselines,” Vander Heyden said. “Besides, I liked the red shirts better.”
Vander Heyden is grateful to many people for the success and satisfaction he experienced with The Ace – USSSA, Ken Paulson, Ken Franzen, Dewey Everts, his sons Brad and Lance and Bill Rader.
“Bill went along with everything I did,” he said appreciatively. “I just [did the work]. They’re the ones who made it happen, especially Dewey Everts.”
He also had a special place in his heart for all the people he met through the years.
“I enjoyed the personal interaction with umpires, players and fans,” Vander Heyden said. “They were probably the best friends I ever had.”