COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Baseball fans, you will soon have the chance to see some of the game's best and brightest young stars.
During Thursday's game between the Columbia Fireflies and the Greensboro Grasshoppers, Hardball Capital CEO Jason Frier, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, and Spirit Communications CEO Bob Keane announced that Spirit Communications Park will be hosting the 2017 South Atlantic League All-Star Game.
"You're getting players, executives, and fans from 14 teams and seven states coming here," Frier said. "They're filling up hotel rooms. We're also bringing national attention to Columbia and, equally important, to the BullStreet project. "
This season's contest was held at Whitaker Bank Ballpark in Lexington, Ky. Next season, representatives from across the SAL will make their way to Columbia to show their skills.
The announcement comes on the heels of Spirit Communications Park being named Ballpark of the Year by Baseball Digest. City officials, including Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, were on hand to accept the award after the third inning.
"It's a wonderful validation of what we all knew," Mayor Benjamin said. "We knew that Columbia could build a fantastic facility on time, on budget – a multi-purpose venue that could not only host baseball but host family-friendly events throughout the year."
According to Frier, Spirit Communications Park is the second park to receive the league's All-Star Game just a year after being built. The other park, Parkview Field, is located in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The home of the Fort Wayne TinCaps, Parkview Field hosted the 2010 Midwest League All-Star Game. Parkview Field has also been named the top ballpark in the country four out of the last five years.
"We had a great deal of confidence that this was going to go this way," Frier said. "but again, there is nothing like getting that third-party validation from professional baseball and a major national publication saying that everything here is going the right way."
The opportunity to host next year's All-Star Game is one that fans are looking forward to. It also gives the Capital City a chance to gain a little more exposure to tourists and baseball fans alike.
"We're going to spend the next year thinking about how to make this the biggest, best thing," Frier said. "We will set up all sort of Columbia excursions for players, fans, executives that come in from different teams that can experience the best Columbia has to offer."
The All-Star festivities will also include a home run derby featuring some of the league's top sluggers as well as a fan fest.
Columbia last hosted a minor league All-Star Game back in 1992. Next year's South Atlantic League All-Star Game will take place on June 20.