More good news out of Columbia for baseball fans, as the Columbia Fireflies and Spirit Communications Park have been awarded the 2017 South Atlantic League All-Star Game.
The announcement was made by Fireflies Managing Owner Jason Freier, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin and Spirit Communications Chief Executive Officer Bob Keane, to the fans in attendance at Thursday’s game between the Fireflies and the Greensboro Grasshoppers, one inning after the team and the city accepted the 2016 Ballpark of the Year award from Ballpark Digest.
The star-studded contest will be played on Tuesday, June 20, 2017 at Spirit Communications Park. In addition to the game itself, the Fireflies will host a home run derby, fan fest, all-star gala and other related festivities.
The game will be an opportunity for residents of the Midlands to see the best of the best. The players on display, in a few short years, will be the most recognizable stars in the Major Leagues.
“The last time one of our teams hosted an All-Star Game, in Fort Wayne in 2010, the starting center fielder was future American League Rookie of the Year and MVP, Mike Trout, and the catcher was future American League Rookie of the Year and All-Star Wil Myers,” said Freier. Players from that 2010 All-Star Game have, in just six short years, accounted for 506 Home Runs, 1,886 RBI, 152 wins, 30 saves, nine All-Star appearances, four Silver Slugger awards, two Rookie of the Year awards and one MVP at the Major League level.
“Spirit Communications Park was built for an event of this magnitude,” said team President John Katz. “It has been 25 years since the last time the All-Star Game was in Columbia, and we’re excited to have the opportunity to showcase the dramatic growth and vibrancy that our community has experienced since then. Very few ballparks in Minor League Baseball can offer the amenities and fan experience we have here at Spirit Communications Park. We look forward to sharing this special night with our loyal fans.”
The League awarded Spirit Communications Park the 58th South Atlantic League All-Star Game just a few short months after it opened to a sell-out crowd of 9,077 on April 14, 2016.
Executives, fans, coaches and players from 14 different teams across seven states will make the journey to Columbia with the opportunity to participate in excursions that showcase the best of Columbia and the Midlands.
“This is a huge honor for our city, new team and new ballpark,” said Freier. “It is a testament to the quality of what we are building here and to the enthusiasm and support we’ve received from the community. We are tremendously grateful.”
Recent South Atlantic League All-Star Games have featured Major League superstars such as Bryce Harper, Giancarlo Stanton, Madison Bumgarner and Andrew McCutchen. Other past participants have included Hall of Famers Tom Glavine, Nolan Ryan, Ryne Sandberg and Steve Carlton.
The last time Columbia hosted an All-Star Game was in 1992. Andy Pettitte, the 2001 American League Championship Series MVP, made the biggest impact on the mound during the game, striking out the side in the 7th inning. Pettitte went on to win 256 games in the Majors and is the winningest post-season pitcher in the baseball history, with 19 playoff wins.