On June 3, 2016, Muhammad Ali died, and threw the sports world into shock. This season, on the date of his passing, the Louisville Bats will wear Ali-inspired jerseys to honor the late boxing champion.
This is one of the many things that will be going on during the six-week celebration of Ali’s life in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.
According to Ryan Ritchey, the Director of Media and Public Relations for the Bats, the decision to have the Muhammad Ali Appreciation Night and have the Ali jerseys was made after, “Seeing the city of Louisville join together and support Muhammad Ali and his family after his death last June.”
According to milb.com, the ‘I Am Ali’ celebration at the Kentucky Center during the week of Ali's death and memorial attracted 15,000 people. The Louisville police estimated that more than 100,000 people attended the funeral procession around town.
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Bill Clinton, Spike Lee, Mike Tyson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Will Smith, David Beckham, Whoopi Goldberg and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were among the celebrities who attended.
Ritchey added, “We saw how much the city came out the day of his funeral and lined the streets and wanted to bring that back energy a year later.” It only seems right for the Bats to commemorate the love and support that the city of Louisville has for Ali.
The Bats are working with the Ali Center and the ‘I Am Ali’ Festival to modify the tribute from a one weekend event to a six-week event for the city. The first day will be the Muhammad Ali Appreciation Night game on Saturday, June 3, complete with the custom-made jersey.
Ritchey explained that the jerseys were created by the Louisville Bats, as well as with the Ali Center and the Ali Estate. “We came up with the idea to have a special jersey for the June 3 game and were given permission to use the image on the jersey by the Ali Center and the Ali Estate.”
Perhaps the greatest tribute of all is that the jerseys will be auctioned off following the game and all of the proceeds will go directly back the Ali Center.
“We are going to promote this event through marketing and social media by joining together with other organizations in the city to promote it,” Ritchey explained. “By having multiple organizations backing the same cause we feel this will allow the entire city, no matter if you are a baseball fan or not, to come to the ballpark and enjoy a game as well as enjoy the legacy of The Champ.”
Not only is the city of Louisville backing this event, but people around the United States and world are as well.
“The first day of the release I had people from around the country and the world wondering how they could get their hands on a jersey, so the event is out there, it is just about promoting it more in our city now,” explained Ritchey.
The game is sure to be a sellout after seeing how many people flocked to Ali’s procession last June. The greatest of all time deserves the greatest theme night of all time to celebrate his life and dedication to the city of Louisville.