"The Rickwood Classic is one of the truly special and unique events in all Minor League Baseball," Barons general manager Jonathan Nelson said. "With this being the 100th celebration of Rickwood Field and with the inclusion of a legendary ballplayer such as Harmon Killebrew, this year's Rickwood Classic should be all that more special."
Killebrew spent 21 of his 22 big league seasons in the Washington Senators / Minnesota Twins organization before ending his playing career with the Kansas City Royals in 1975. The 1984 Hall of Fame selection hit 40 or more homers in eight separate seasons and finished his career with 567 longballs. He hit .276 with a career-high 49 homers and 140 RBIs during his lone MVP season in 1969.
"With this year's Classic celebrating Rickwood's centennial, the participation of Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew is a natural fit, and it adds another element of excitement to the event," Friends of Rickwood director David Brewer said. "The Friends of Rickwood are very pleased to welcome Mr. Killebrew back to Rickwood Field."
Killebrew, who hit 29 homers for the Southern Association's Chattanooga Lookouts in 1957, is a former roommate of Southern League president Don Mincher. The pairing began during Spring Training in 1961 when Mincher joined the Twins big league club, and the two have remained close since. The Southern League president recalls Killebrew's strong work ethic, citing that the former first baseman wasn't born a Hall of Famer but made himself one through hard work and dedication.
"He's a great role model for today's Minor Leaguers," Mincher said. "The Barons are very fortunate to have him. I'm looking forward to having him there myself."
The Barons will host the Tennessee Smokies in the 15th annual Rickwood Classic at 12:30 p.m. at historic Rickwood Field. The home team will wear uniforms from the 1910 season, while the visitors will wear uniforms from the 1914 season, when they were known as the Appalachian Smokies.
This will mark the second appearance for the Smokies in the Classic. The Barons defeated the Cubs' Double-A affiliate, 3-2, in the 13th annual Rickwood Classic in 2006. The Barons hold a 7-7 record in the event that has taken place since 1996. In 2009, the event was named the most desirable Minor League game to attend in a poll on MiLB.com.