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Braves to host baseball's Civil Rights Games
Baseball hall of famer Hank Aaron, left, is introduced with applause from Martin Luther King III, center, and Andrew Young, right, during a press conference in which Major League Baseball announced that the Atlanta Braves will host for the 2011 and 2012 Civil Rights Game on Wednesday June 30, 2010, in Atlanta. - photo by Associated Press

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Braves will host Major League Baseball's Civil Rights Games in 2011-12, team president John Schuerholz announced Wednesday at the King Center.

No dates or opponents have been set for the games, which will be played during the next two regular seasons. The 2009-10 games were held in Cincinnati.

Jimmie Lee Solomon, MLB's executive vice president for baseball development, called Atlanta, the home of slain civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., an easy choice as the host city.

Though it has yet to announce an agenda for the Atlanta event, MLB hopes to create greater presence for baseball in the black community. MLB released a report last month stating that black players accounted for just 9 percent of major league rosters in 2009.

Latino players accounted for 27 percent and Asian players 2.3 percent.

"Jackie Robinson integrated baseball in 1947," Solomon said. "That was before the armed forces, Brown v. Board of Education, it was before Rosa Parks refused to sit at the back of the bus. Sometimes that is forgotten because of the work of Dr. King and so many other civil rights activist. Jackie's integration into Major League Baseball created a grand experiment for our society."

Martin Luther King III, the president and CEO of the King Center, was joined on stage for the announcement by Schuerholz, Solomon, former U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young, Braves broadcaster Joe Simpson and baseball legend Hank Aaron.

"Baseball created a situation that forced people of different color to do things together," Young said. "Some people showed lots of reluctance, but I remember a good ol' boy from South Georgia said to me in 1965 that if (Atlanta was) going to be a big-league city and these players like Hank have to be able to buy a nice house. My jaw nearly hit the ground."

Atlanta's two-day event next year will end with a Braves game at Turner Field. Solomon said baseball has yet to decide on activities or an agenda for 2011.

Willie Mays, Billie Jean King and Harry Belafonte were among those honored in 2010 with MLB Beacon Awards.

"The Beacon Awards and the Civil Rights Game have become one of our game's great signature events, and rightfully so," Selig said earlier this year. "Baseball is proud to honor in this way the efforts to bring total equality to all Americans, regardless of color or creed."