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Aaron looms large for Civil Rights Game

Aaron looms large for Civil Rights Game

Aaron looms large for Civil Rights Game
Since the Civil Rights Game concept began in 2007 -- as a mere exhibition game in Memphis, Tenn. -- former home run king Hank Aaron has been in the ear of Jimmie Lee Solomon, trying to convince Major League Baseball's executive vice president of baseball development to stage the event in Atlanta.

His proposition -- considering the city was basically a central hub for the entire civil-rights movement -- made all the sense in the world. So four years later, after two years in Memphis, followed by two years in Cincinnati, the annual Civil Rights Game is moving to Atlanta.

And as MLB's latest jewel event grows larger, Aaron -- his life, his presence and his stamp on history -- will be the central theme.

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For the first time, the Civil Rights Game will be played on a Sunday -- May 15, between the Phillies and Braves at Turner Field. And for the first time, its preceding events will make up four-plus days.

CRG 2011 Include

But not for the first time, Aaron will be heavily involved in an MLB venture.

"Henry Aaron has been tireless in working with our game," Solomon said. "He's never left the game. He's [a senior vice president] with the Braves, he has been a very close friend of the Commissioner's, has always been a fixture in our game and still is at the present time of our game."

Aaron is slated to make his presence felt at most, if not all, events leading up to the fifth annual Civil Rights Game, most notably at the two newest ones.

For the first time this year, the Civil Rights Game itinerary will include the "Selig Business Conference," a two-day job and trade fair named after MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and held at the Georgia Aquarium. Aaron will be doing the honors in a ribbon-cutting ceremony the morning of May 12.

Then, later that night, it'll be all about Aaron. At the Fox Theatre, a red-carpet tribute for the Hall of Fame outfielder will be held, leading up to the screening of the Oscar-nominated documentary based on his life, "Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream." Afterward, there will be a Q&A session with attendees, featuring Aaron, executive producer Debra Martin-Chase and writer/director Mike Tollin.

There are sure to be more Aaron tributes as an event that celebrates African-American involvement in the game comes to the place where arguably the most famous African-American in the Majors thrived.

Aaron is honored. But he's just happy that the Civil Rights Game is finally coming to his own backyard.

"Just to have the game here where Dr. King's home was, where his burial site is, where there are so many civil-rights people, where a lot of things were started," Aaron said, "to me is one of the greatest thrills that I can think of."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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