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Atlanta To Host Next Civil Rights Game

 By Mark Bowman / MLB.com

 

ATLANTA -- Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy will be celebrated in his hometown for the next two years, when the Braves and the city of Atlanta host Major League Baseball's annual Civil Rights Game.

During a press conference today,  held at the King Center, MLB revealed that Atlanta will serve as the next site of this event that celebrates baseball's history of African-American players and also attempts to promote the game to young black children. The date of the 2011 game has yet to be determined.

"The Civil Rights Game Weekend has become one of the premier celebrations on the Major League Baseball calendar," said Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig in an MLB release. "We are pleased to have the Atlanta Braves and the city of Atlanta as hosts for this important event remembering a significant era in America's history."

Hank Aaron, former Congressman and U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young -- who was a close friend of King's -- Martin Luther King III, MLB executive vice president for baseball development Jimmie Lee Solomon and Braves president John Schuerholz were among the dignitaries who were present for Wednesday's announcement.

"The Atlanta Braves are extremely proud and honored that our organization and our great city were selected to host the Civil Rights games for 2011 and 2012," said Schuerholz in the release. "We look forward with great anticipation and excitement to presenting these significant, meaningful games in the finest fashion."

"We are anticipating a very successful tribute to the civil rights movement in the city of Atlanta," Solomon said in the release. "With the rich history of the city and the organization, the Braves will be terrific hosts of the Civil Rights Game Weekend in 2011 and 2012."

MLB will announce the dates of next year's Civil Rights Game activities at a later date. The two-day event will end with a regular-season game that will be hosted by the Braves at Turner Field. Last year's game in Cincinnati was held on May 15.

King delivered many of his civil rights speeches in his hometown during the 1960s, and Aaron created one of the greatest moments in baseball history on April 8, 1974, when he proved that a former Negro Leaguer could surpass the legendary home run record held by Babe Ruth.

As the citizens of Atlanta look toward the future, they recognize that their native son, Braves rookie outfielder Jason Heyward, has the potential to be much more than simply a great role model for the city's African-American children.

The Civil Rights Game event has annually featured the presentation of MLB's Beacon Awards, which recognize individuals "whose lives are emblematic of the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement." This year's honorees included Willie Mays, Billie Jean King and Harry Belafonte.

Young served as the keynote speaker during the award presentations made during this year's event. Last year, Bill Clinton served as the keynote speaker during a ceremony that recognized Aaron, Muhammad Ali and Bill Cosby.

"The Beacon Awards and the Civil Rights Game have become one of our game's great signature events, and rightfully so," Commissioner Bud Selig said during this year's presentation luncheon. "Baseball is proud to honor in this way the efforts to bring total equality to all Americans, regardless of color or creed."

This event will allow fans to enjoy exhibits that detail the great impact that African-Americans have had on the game of baseball. In addition, children will have the opportunity to participate in clinics and enjoy other interactive activities that could introduce them to the game or at least heighten their interest in it.

The Reds and the city of Cincinnati have hosted the Civil Rights Game activities both of the past two years. The first two years of the event revolved around exhibition games that were played in Memphis, Tenn.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.



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