Major League Baseball announced on Friday that it is moving the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta in response to Georgia legislation passed in March that restricts voting rights.  

MLB has yet to announce a new site for this year's Midsummer Classic, which had been scheduled for July 13 at the Braves' Truist Park, but said a new host city would be chosen "shortly". 

The league had also planned on holding the draft in Atlanta but that also will be switched to another location, along with All-Star break staples like the Futures Game and Home Run Derby.   

The decision comes just over a week after the passage of a bill in the Georgia legislature that president Joe Biden and others have criticised and characterised as voter suppression.  

Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement that he consulted with current and former players – as well as officials with the Players Association – before making the decision.  

"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," Manfred said. "Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box. 

"We proudly used our platform to encourage baseball fans and communities throughout our country to perform their civic duty and actively participate in the voting process. Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support."

Reigning NL MVP and Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman previously said that he hoped the game would still be held in Atlanta but used as a platform to promote voting rights.  

The move is reminiscent of the NBA's activism in the summer of 2016, when it pulled the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte, North Carolina after a law was enacted that did not allow transgender people to use bathrooms in accordance with their gender identities in government buildings, public schools and public universities.  

The North Carolina "bathroom bill" was later altered and the NBA held the 2019 All-Star festivities in Charlotte.  

Change in Georgia may be more difficult, as the state has become a lightning rod for passionately divided political issues after its pivotal role in the 2020 elections for president and U.S. Senate.  

Proponents of the bill, titled SB 202, say that it will ensure election integrity, while opponents say that the new restrictions are targeted to reduce turnout by black and other minority voters.  

Among the provisions in the bill that has since been signed into law by govenor Brian Kemp are heightened identification standards for absentee ballots and a ban on distributing food and water to voters waiting in lines at polling places. 

President Biden called the law "Jim Crow on steroids", while MLB's position was further complicated by its plans to celebrate the life and career of Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, who was the target of racism when he broke Babe Ruth’s home run record and throughout his 23-year career.  

Other major sports figures connected to Atlanta have also publicly condemned the new law. Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons and Major League Soccer's Atlanta United, denounced the legislation, saying: "We should be working to make voting easier, not harder for every eligible citizen." 

Tony Ressler, owner of the Atlanta Hawks, also made a statement against SB 202 and said that the franchise will continue to "promote equality and encourage participation by all who seek to cast a ballot".

World Series champions Los Angeles Dodgers were humbled on the Opening Day of the new Major League Baseball season 8-5 by the Colorado Rockies on Thursday.

The Dodgers had 14 stranded runners throughout the game while Cody Bellinger hit a ball into the stands which did not count as a home run on a strange afternoon.

With crowds returning to MLB, the Dodgers were unable to get off to a flying start.

"Honestly, we just didn’t play a good baseball game," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "All the way around, we didn’t play well."

In the Houston Astros' first game back playing in front of crowds since their cheating scandal emerged they were jeered and boed in an 8-1 win on the road against the Oakland Athletics.

Back-to-back home runs from Michael Brantley and Alex Bregman in the eighth put the Astros out of sight and silenced the crowd.


Trout lifts Angels, Mariners mighty comeback

Mike Trout flexed his muscle as the Los Angeles Angels rallied to beat the Chicago White Sox 4-3. At the bottom of the eighth, a visibly pumped Trout's hit gave him an RBI and tied the game. Shohei Ohtani then got on the board after an error by second baseman Nick Madrigal.

The Seattle Mariners trailed 6-1 in the eighth inning against the San Francisco Giants before mounting a remarkable fightback and eventually prevail 8-7. The winning run came when Jake Fraley walked with the bases loaded.

The New York Yankees' bats let them down as they were beaten 3-2 by the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Tampa Day Rays shut out the Miami Marlins in a 1-0 win earned by Austin Meadows' solo home run in the ninth.


Bellinger denied by mix-up

Bellinger was denied his first homer of the new season in a moment of confusion, when team-mate Justin Turner, who was on first base, thought Bellinger had been caught in the outfield and ran back. Bellinger's hit was actually fumbled by Raimel Tapia over the fence so when Turner reversed and passed by the left-hander that made him out and resulted in only an RBI single.


First homer of season

Detroit Tigers hitter Miguel Cabrera claimed the maiden homer of the new season in driving snow, which left him confused, sliding into base just in case it had not cleared the fence.


Thursday's results

Toronto Blue Jays 3-2 New York Yankees
Detroit Tigers 3-2 Cleveland Indians
Milwaukee Brewers 6-5 Minnesota Twins
Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3 Chicago Cubs
Philadelphia Phillies 3-2 Atlanta Braves
Tampa Bay Rays 1-0 Miami Marlins
St Louis Cardinals 11-6 Cincinnati Reds
Colorado Rockies 8-5 Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres 8-7 Arizona Diamondbacks
Kansas City Royals 14-10 Texas Rangers
Los Angeles Angels 4-3 Chicago White Sox
Houston Astros 8-1 Oakland Athletics 
Seattle Mariners 8-7 San Fransisco Giants 


Dodgers to bounce back

The Dodgers will look to bounce back from their opening day loss on Friday on the road again versus the Colorado Rockies.

All-Star outfielder and veteran Nick Markakis retired following 15 seasons in MLB.

Markakis – a free agent at the end of 2020 – made the announcement on Friday, prior to the start of the 2021 campaign, which gets underway on April 1.

The 37-year-old spent the past five seasons with the Braves, having started his career at the Baltimore Orioles in 2006.

Markakis made his sole All-Star appearance in 2018, while he won a Silver Slugger Award the same year, to go with three Gold Glove honours.

"I just think it's my time," Markakis, who featured in last season's National League Championship Series (NLCS) loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, told The Athletic. "My number one decision and my main focus on this is obviously my kids and my family.

"I've been fortunate enough to do this for a very long time and not many people get to do what I've gone through. I'm thankful for every second and every minute."

Markakis – who won three consecutive NL East titles in Atlanta – hit .288/.357/.423 with 1,119 runs, 514 doubles and 189 home runs in 2,154 MLB games from 2006 to 2020, while collecting 2,388 hits for the Orioles and Braves.

He appeared in 2,074 games in right field, eighth most in MLB history.

Braves manager Brian Snitker said: "It was just a great career. I felt honoured to be able to manage him for the last few years of his career.

"Coming in every day, you knew what you were going to get. He's a flatline pro. There weren't any highs and lows. It was business as usual every day. He was just a consummate pro with everything he did."

"Everybody who was ever around him in this clubhouse speaks so highly of him from a leadership standpoint, about what kind of team-mate he was," added Orioles skipper Brandon Hyde.

"He meant a lot to the people who are still here who were around the years he played here. He had a heck of a career."

Hall of Fame outfielder Hank Aaron, one of baseball’s most iconic sluggers who held Major League Baseball’s cherished career home runs record for 33 years, died on Friday at his Georgia home at the age of 86. 

The Atlanta Braves, the team where Aaron spent all but two of his 23 major league seasons, confirmed the franchise icon's passing in a statement.  

"We are absolutely devastated by the passing of our beloved Hank," said Braves chairman Terry McGuirk. "He was a beacon for our organisation first as a player, then with player development, and always with our community efforts. His incredible talent and resolve helped him achieve the highest accomplishments, yet he never lost his humble nature."

Aaron was named to a record 21 All-Star teams and won two National League batting titles and the league's Most Valuable Player award in 1957, but his most notable accomplishment came near the end of his distinguished career. On April 8, 1974, the then 40-year-old homered off the Los Angeles Dodgers' Al Downing at Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium to surpass Babe Ruth's MLB record of 714 home runs – a mark that had stood since 1935. 

The achievement was met with both fanfare and vitriol in some cases, with Aaron often subjected to overt racism in the form of hate mail and even death threats from those who objected to his pursuit of Ruth's record. 

Following a two-year stint with the Milwaukee Brewers, Aaron retired in 1976 with 755 homers. Though Barry Bonds would later exceed that number in 2007, "Hammerin' Hank" still ranks as MLB's all-time leader with 2,297 RBIs, 6,856 total bases and 1,477 extra-base hits.  

"Hank Aaron is near the top of everyone's list of all-time great players. His monumental achievements as a player were surpassed only by his dignity and integrity as a person," MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement. 

"Hank symbolised the very best of our game, and his all-around excellence provided Americans and fans across the world with an example to which to aspire.  

"His career demonstrates that a person who goes to work with humility every day can hammer his way into history -- and find a way to shine like no other."

Born in Mobile, Alabama. In 1934, Aaron broke into professional baseball at age 17 as a shortstop with the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro American League in 1952 and had his contract purchased by the then-Boston Braves shortly afterward. He reached the majors in 1954 with the Braves then having moved to Milwaukee, and won his first NL batting crown two years later after hitting .328 in 153 games. 

Aaron followed up with a sensational 1957 campaign in which he led the majors with 44 homers and 132 RBIs while batting .322 to claim his only NL MVP. The Brewers capped that season by defeating the New York Yankees in seven games for the franchise's lone World Series title in Milwaukee.  

Aaron would lead the NL in both homers and RBIs three more times during his career and won another batting title in 1959. He also won three straight Gold Gloves from 1958-60 and completed his career with 3,771 hits, third in MLB history behind Pete Rose and Ty Cobb. 

One of only four players in MLB history with 600 homers and 3,000 hits (Willie Mays, Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez), Aaron was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility in 1982. He was named on nearly 98 percent of ballots.  

"Henry Louis Aaron wasn't just our icon, but one across Major League Baseball and around the world," McGuirk added.

Aaron returned to the Braves as an executive following his playing career and was further honoured by MLB in 1999 with the establishment of the Hank Aaron Award, given to the top offensive performer in both the American and National Leagues.  

A strong advocate of civil rights, Aaron received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2002.  

Aaron joins a list of several Hall of Fame members who have passed away in the past calendar year, a group that includes Lou Brock, Whitey Ford, Bob Gibson, Al Kaline, Joe Morgan, Phil Niekro, Tom Seaver, Tommy Lasorda and Don Sutton.

Niekro and Sutton also had extensive ties to the Braves, as Niekro pitched 20 seasons for the franchise and Sutton spent several years with the team as a television and radio analyst. 

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