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Civil Rights Game to count for Sox

Civil Rights Game to count for Sox

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NEW YORK -- When the White Sox participated in the second annual Civil Rights Game in Memphis, Tenn., just days before the start of the 2008 regular season, Jerry Owens was rehabbing a right groin injury back in Tucson, Ariz.

So, if Owens gets to take part in the third annual contest on June 20, 2009, between the Reds and the White Sox, it will have a special meaning for the outfielder in more ways than one. For starters, Owens will be playing in a truly historic and educational event put together by Major League Baseball.

But the fleet-footed left-handed hitter also would be an active member of the team in good standing. That's because for the first time in the short existence of this competition, it will be played as part of the regular-season schedule in Cincinnati.

It's a move applauded by the White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who thoroughly enjoyed his team's weekend full of activities in Memphis at the end of this past March.

"I think it's a good idea," said Guillen of the Civil Rights Game move to what will be the Interleague portion of the Major League schedule. "All of the sudden, nobody's going to take something away from Spring Training.

"That makes it more interesting. I think it was a great view for all of the United States. I think it's important, because everybody can watch it the way you'd watch a regular game."

A two-year agreement was announced by Major League Baseball and the Reds on Thursday for Cincinnati to play host to the Civil Rights Game. The actual game marks the culmination of two days of events commemorating the Civil Rights Movement.

While the White Sox were in Memphis late last March, they took a team tour of the Civil Rights Museum. General manager Ken Williams spoke eloquently as part of a panel entitled "Baseball and the Civil Rights Movement," while White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, one of the game's leaders in instilling diversity, was surprised with a special citation for his contributions in this area during a Friday night banquet.

Moving the venue to Cincinnati should make the weekend no less significant, according to a few White Sox players. In fact, having this game take place when the games actually count in the standings should bring even more attention to an important part of history.

"Whether you are Caucasian or African-American, it's a big part of history," Owens said. "It's nice they recognize that, and it will be cool to be part of it."

"Certainly, Ohio has some great history to that, being a freedom state and all of the slaves trying to make it up there," White Sox reliever Scott Linebrink added. "I'm sure that will hold similar significance. Anytime you can champion a cause like Civil Rights, which is very important in our society, just by being present, that's always an honor."

Scott Merkin 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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