Rockies to host 2021 All-Star Game

April 7th, 2021

DENVER -- Rockies franchise icon Vinny Castilla had a 1998 reaction to the news that the 91st All-Star Game and its related events are coming to Coors Field, announced officially Tuesday.

“I looked through my photo books,” Castilla said, smiling.

The Midsummer Classic will be back at Coors on July 13 for the first time since 1998, when Castilla, Hall of Fame electee Larry Walker and Dante Bichette represented the team for the National League.

“I was really happy for the organization, for the city,” said Castilla, who played for the club from its expansion year of 1993 through '99, returned as a player in 2004, retired as a player in '06, and is in his 14th season as a special assistant to the general manager. “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.”

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

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

The move provides an opportunity to highlight Denver.

“Denver is probably a bit of a sleeper city,” four-time All-Star outfielder Charlie Blackmon said. “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.

“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.”

There is little time to relax for the Rockies and MLB, however.

“We're going to have to get things moving here quickly because a lot of times, cities have years in advance to plan,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “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 today with the news.”

The Rockies had begun the process of bidding for a future All-Star Game, having supplied detailed plans for hotel, event space and security that took months to assemble, and MLB staff had already made several visits. The fact that they had already started that process is the reason why the city was chosen, which MLB noted in its announcement. To help support this year’s festivities on a short schedule, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock have committed to provide facilities and services to support the game.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said 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.”

“We are excited to host this year’s All-Star festivities at Coors Field,” said Rockies chief operating officer Greg Feasel. “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 region have to offer.”

The event has meaning for a franchise that made consecutive trips to the postseason in 2017 and '18, which had never happened before, followed by hard times the last two seasons.

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

The Blue Jays include his son, shortstop Bo Bichette, who is one of the game’s top young stars. Dante Bichette recalls leaving a Spring Training game -- “I lined out to left field, then went home,” he recalled -- for the birth of Bo on March 5, 1998 -- the year of his second 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 met all the Blake Street Bombers,” Bichette said, 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.

“He remembers when I was a coach there 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 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.

“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,” Blackmon said.

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

Though the game will no longer take place in Atlanta, the 2021 Midsummer Classic -- scheduled for Tuesday, July 13 -- will still celebrate the memory of the late Hank Aaron, an Atlanta icon who passed away on Jan. 22. 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 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, Calif., 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.