‘The Rocks’ digs to ‘rock’ with MLB spectacle



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MLB 2021 All-Star Game in Colorado Image: Helen H. Richardson & The Denver Post

The Major League Baseball (MLB) (US) team Colorado Rockies franchise icon Vinny Castilla was thrilled to bits on hearing the news that the 91st All-Star Game and its related events are coming to the Rockies’ residence – Coors Field.

‘Major League Baseball’ stated that an announcement in this regard was made on April 6th – the Midsummer Classic will be back at Coors Field on July 13th, 2021 for the first time since 1998.

The Colorado Rockies are an American professional baseball team based in Denver (US). The Rockies compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the National League (NL) West division. The team plays its home baseball games at Coors Field, which is located in the Lower Downtown area of Denver.

The 50,398-capacity Coors Field is a baseball park located in downtown Denver, Colorado (US). It is the home field of the Colorado Rockies, the City’s Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise. Opened in 1995, the park is located in Denver’s Lower Downtown neighborhood, two blocks from the Union Station.

The Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Star Game, also known as the ‘Midsummer Classic’, is an annual professional baseball game sanctioned by MLB and contested between the all-stars from the American League (AL) and National League (NL). All-Stars are selected by fans for starting fielders, by managers for pitchers, and by managers and players for reserves.

The Major League Baseball (MLB) is an American professional baseball organization and the oldest of the major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. A total of 30 teams play in MLB: 15 teams in the National League and 15 in the American League.

Vinicio ‘Vinny’ Castilla Soria is a Mexican former Major League Baseball third baseman who played his best years with the Colorado Rockies.

Castilla was flooded with memories of the 1998 Midsummer Classic event held in Coors Field and said, “I looked through my photo books.”

The MLB spectacle held at Coors Field in 1998 featured Mexican Castilla who will go down in the MLB annals of history as one of the greatest players, Hall of Fame electee Larry Walker and American baseball player Dante Bichette represented the team for the National League.

Bichette is a four-time All-Star outfielder who spent seven seasons in the Rockies organization from 1993-1999.

‘Major League Baseball’ quoted Castilla as stating, “I am really happy for the organization, for the City. And it brings back a lot of memories. When I was in the game in 1998, it was one of my best experiences as a baseball player in my career – the Home Run Derby and the [All-Star] Game. That was a great moment being part of that game here in Denver.”

Castilla played for the Colorado Rockies from its expansion year of 1993 through 1999, returned as a player in 2004, retired as a player in 2006, and is in his 14th season as a Special Assistant to the General Manager of the Rockies.

Apart from the game and the Home Run Derby, this will be the first year that the MLB Draft will be part of the All-Star festivities. The Draft is tentatively scheduled for July 11th, at a to-be-determined venue in Denver.

The Home Run Derby is an annual home run hitting competition in Major League Baseball customarily held the day before the MLB All-Star Game.

The first-year player draft is the primary mechanism of Major League Baseball for assigning amateur baseball players from high schools, colleges and other amateur baseball clubs to its teams.

MLB awarded the game to Denver after it announced recently that it would relocate the All-Star Game and Draft from Atlanta (Georgia) in response to the passage last month of S.B. 202, a Georgia law that the US President Joe Biden recently criticized, saying that it will restrict voting access for residents of the State.

Denver landing the Midsummer Classic provides an opportunity to bring into sharp focus the Colorado City.

Remarked four-time All-Star outfielder Charlie Blackmon, “Denver is probably a bit of a sleepy City. I would imagine we don’t get a ton of coverage nationally. It’s not in the news that much. We’re a bit of a secret.”

Added Blackmon, “I’m kind of worried everybody’s going to find out when they come here and see how awesome our City it is, how pretty it is with the mountains and everything. I’m kind of concerned it’s going to bring in more outsiders permanently. It’s got to be on the short list of Cities to drink a beer outside.”

However, it is time for the Rockies and the MLB to gird up their loins.

Asserted Rockies Manager Bud Black, “We’re going to have to get things moving here quickly because a lot of times, Cities have years in advance to plan. But, I have tremendous confidence in our City and our ballclub as a great host. So, I’m excited for everyone. I know that there’s a little bit of buzz around here with the news.”

The Rockies had begun the process of bidding for a future All-Star Game, having furnished detailed plans for hotel, event space and security that took months to assemble, and the MLB functionaries had already made several visits. The fact that they had already started that process is the reason why the City was picked up, which the MLB mentioned in its announcement. To help support this year’s showpiece on a short schedule, Colorado Governor Jared Polis and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock have assured to provide all kinds of facilities and services to support the game.

The MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred stated in an official announcement, “Major League Baseball is grateful to the Rockies, the City of Denver and the State of Colorado for their support of this summer’s All-Star Game. We appreciate their flexibility and enthusiasm to deliver a first-class event for our game and the region. We look forward to celebrating our sport’s best players and entertaining fans around the world.”

Commented Rockies Chief Operating Officer (COO) Greg Feasel, “We are excited to host this year’s All-Star festivities at Coors Field. We are confident that our organization along with the City, State, VISIT DENVER and the Denver Sports Commission are capable of putting on this premier event in a relatively quick time frame because of the preparations that had already been done. Summer in Colorado is something everyone in the country should experience, and we embrace this opportunity to show off our beautiful ballpark and everything our City, State and the region have to offer.”

The event holds a lot of significance for a franchise that made consecutive trips to the postseason in 2017 and 2018, which had never happened before, followed by rough times the last two seasons.

Stated Bichette, who is now a MLB coach with the Toronto Blue Jays but still carries a special place in his heart for the Rockies, “It’s been a rough time, no doubt, but hopefully this is a pick-me-up, good for the organization.”

The Blue Jays include his son, shortstop Bo Bichette, who is one of the game’s top young stars.

Bichette reminisces leaving a spring training game as his son Bo was about to come to this world – “I lined out to the left field, and then went home for the birth of Bo on March 5th, 1998”. It was the second year of Bichette’s All-Star experience.

Bichette said it would be exciting if Bo were to make it this year, in a full-circle kind of way – “He’s (Bo) met all the Blake Street Bombers. (referring to a devastating row of Rockies power hitters in the mid-to-late ’90s). As he makes his trip around the League, he’s met a lot of people who were in Colorado.”

Talking more about his son Bo and how he fell in love with baseball, he shared, “He remembers when I was a coach with Colorado Rockies in 2013 and 2014. He was with the team all year long and Coors Field is where he fell in love with baseball. I had gotten him into tennis. But Yorvit Torrealba (former professional baseball catcher with the Rockies) used to take him out and make him take batting practice in the third and fourth group. That’s where he fell in love with the game.”

Blackmon, who homered in the 2019 All-Star Game, would love to experience an All-Star Game at home, especially his favorite pregame moment as he puts in, “The thing that evokes the most emotion for me is a flyover – to see the fanfare and then have the jets flyover, I might cry a little bit every time.”

Manfred said in a statement that the decision to move the All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver was “the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport” and the decision was taken after consultation with teams, former and current players, the MLB Players Association and The Players Alliance, among others.

The Major League Baseball Players Association is the collective bargaining representative for all current Major League Baseball players. All players, managers, coaches, and athletic trainers who hold or have held a signed contract with a Major League club are eligible for membership in the Association.

The Players Alliance is a group of more than 100 active and former professional players united to use their voice and platform to create new opportunities for the Black community in all areas of baseball and society.

Though the game will no longer take place in Atlanta, the 2021 Midsummer Classic – scheduled for July 13th – will still celebrate the memory of Late Hank Aaron, an Atlanta icon who passed away on January 22nd. MLB will also move forward with planned investments to support local communities in Atlanta as part of the All-Star Legacy Projects.

MLB’s decision was not without precedent among the major sports in the United States. In the summer of 2016, the NBA moved the location of its 2017 All-Star Game (held the following February) from Charlotte to New Orleans in objection to North Carolina House Bill 2, which limited anti-discrimination protections in the State.

In March 1991, NFL owners voted to move the 1993 Super Bowl from Phoenix to Pasadena, California after Arizona voters elected not to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a paid holiday. Arizona eventually recognized MLK Day and was awarded a Super Bowl in 1996 and again in 2008.

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