This was supposed to be Atlanta. A disappointing campaign so far for the home team would’ve been set aside in favor of the baseball macrocosm.
MLB commissioner Rob Manfred stood in The Battery on July 9, 2019 and announced then-SunTrust Park (now Truist Park) would host the 2021 All-Star game. Manfred oozed profusive praise about the Braves organization, the team’s facilities, The Battery and Atlanta’s enthusiastic fan base. It would’ve been the third time Atlanta hosted the midsummer classic, a privilege it also held in 1972 and 2000.
“It’s about time that we’re back,” Manfred said that day.
Fast-forward 632 days: MLB announced it was moving the All-Star game and amateur draft out of Georgia on April 2 in response to the state’s new voting law. Manfred made the decision eight days after Gov. Brian Kemp signed the sweeping elections overhaul into law, a move met with strong opposition from voting rights activists.
President Biden supported MLB’s decision. Kemp and others criticized it. The Braves issued a statement saying they were “deeply disappointed” in the decision. It was a hot-button topic around Georgia and throughout the country. At a time when sports and politics have never intersected more, this was the ultimate example.
Manfred in April: “I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year’s All-Star game and MLB Draft.”
Days later, the 91st All-Star game was relocated to Denver. It was welcomed news for the Mile High City, which has had a tenuous relationship with its Rockies and team ownership, who initiated a roster teardown that currently has the Rockies among baseball’s worst clubs.
Denver is a good baseball town, even though it lacks the history of Atlanta, Los Angeles or Chicago. “LoDo,” the lower downtown area brimming with bars and restaurants near Coors Field, is the perfect backdrop for an All-Star event. The city has energy, vigorous crowds, and a thirst for baseball.
But Atlanta has its own selling points, and those would’ve been on full display this week. There aren’t many cities with more baseball history than Georgia’s capital, where the great Henry Aaron called home until his death in January. Celebrating Aaron’s life was at the forefront of the Braves’ All-Star plans.
Denver, meanwhile, assembled its All-Star atmosphere essentially on the fly, with several months to prepare for an event that’s usually set years in advance. The Futures Game, celebrity softball game, home run derby and the midsummer classic all shifted to the mountain land.
Caleb Seitz, a Louisiana native who lives in Parker, a Denver suburb, was among those forced to alter their plans. Seitz is a Braves fan who was excited to see Truist Park for the first time, but his Atlanta vacation turned into just a half-hour trek into downtown Denver.
“I’m a Braves fan at heart, my uncle lives in Atlanta and the plan was to go there,” Seitz said. “But then they came out here. So I guess it’s a blessing in disguise, if you want to call it that. But it’s not cool they changed it, because ‘Go Braves,’ but I’m OK with it being here.”
Seitz was far from the only individual with a glass-half-full approach. Michael Harris and Drew Waters, the pair of Braves outfield prospects and Atlanta-area natives who represented the team in Sunday’s Futures Game, admitted it would’ve been fun to play the exhibition at Truist Park. The injured Ronald Acuna, Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman were selected to play in the All-Star game that would have been in their home stadium.
“It’s disappointing for the Atlanta community,” Freeman said Monday. “Everyone around here is getting a lot of business coming off COVID. That’s the only thing. I feel bad for the people in the community around the stadium that could’ve done a lot of business.”
Denver’s local businesses have benefited. The historic Larimer Square, stocked with shops and dining options, is shrouded in All-Star advertisements. The cannabis station nearest to Coors Field was selling “Rocky Mountain High” shirts, with the All-Star logo transformed into a purple cannabis leaf. McGregor Square, just in the shadow of Coors Field, was electric with its packed restaurants and stores, making one wonder how The Battery would compare.
McGregor Square held its grand opening last month. It describes itself as the following: “McGregor Square ushers in a new chapter of luxury living, entertainment, food, and business travel in Colorado’s historic city. Tattered Cover, a Denver bookstore that opened a location in the square, basked in the tourism boom. Just outside its doors was a pop-up shop featuring one of the largest collections of baseball books assembled in the country. Spanning an entire block, the complex includes The Rally Hotel, McGregor Square Residences, restaurants and retail outlets, a food hall, an expansive outdoor plaza, and modern office space.”
Just across the street, more baseball history will be made. Multiple future Hall of Famers on the same field. A packed stadium enjoying a return to 100% capacity after a trying year of the pandemic.
Hosting the All-Star Game may be the Rockies’ biggest win of the season. Losing it may be the Braves’ biggest loss.
The Major League Baseball All-Star Game, which will be played tonight, was relocated to Colorado in response to Georgia’s voting law passed by the state’s General Assembly earlier this year. Commissioner Rob Manfred said that the league “opposes restrictions to the ballot box.” Here are the main differences between the voting laws in Colorado and Georgia.
Colorado: Offers vote centers for those who don’t want to cast ballots by mail. Vote centers are open for 15 days and available to all registered voters in their county, regardless of their home address.
Georgia: Under Georgia’s voting law, provisional ballots cast outside a voter’s home precinct won’t be counted, and 17 days of in-person early voting are required statewide before general elections.
Colorado: Ballot drop boxes are available 24 hours a day with a video surveillance system, similar to the drop boxes Georgia used amid the coronavirus pandemic last year.
Georgia: Voting law limits the use of drop boxes, only allowing them inside early voting locations and available only during voting hours.
Colorado: Election officials verify mailed ballots based on voter signatures, as Georgia did in previous years.
Georgia: Georgia will check absentee ballots based on driver’s license numbers, state ID numbers or other documentation instead of signatures.
Colorado: Allows voters to register through election day, enabling them to vote in person immediately.
Georgia: Has one of the earliest voter registration deadlines in the country, requiring new voters to sign up 29 days before election day.