JUPITER, Fla. -- Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith is heading out on the campaign trail for the next 30 days. His platform? To turn Major League Baseball's Opening Day into a national holiday.
Smith announced the initiative on Tuesday and has partnered with St. Louis-based company Budweiser to get a petition to the White House before the 2014 season opens in full on March 31. He will, however, need plenty of support in getting the proposal all the way to the Washington, D.C.
At least 100,000 signatures from fans 21 or older are required within 30 days in order to ensure that the petition receives an administration review and response. The petition launched on Tuesday and can be signed by visiting either WhiteHouse.gov or www.Budweiser.com/OpeningDay. Within eight hours of being posted, the petition was already nearing 7,000 signatures.
"There are 22 million people who have, some point in time, played hooky from work or school, so it's already an unofficial holiday," Smith told MLB.com during a video chat on Tuesday. "We're just trying to make it an official holiday by getting those 100,000 signatures so I can march them up to the front of the White House."
Smith's campaign strategy includes an online video series that will highlight the significance of Opening Day. Those videos, which will be released periodically over the next month, can be viewed by visiting Budweiser's webpage. Additionally, Budweiser has announced plans to celebrate Opening Day by serving day-fresh draught beer in stadiums that sell Anheuser-Busch products.
"Budweiser and baseball have gone hand-in-hand ever since both were born in the 1800s," Tom Kraus, director of Budweiser brand marketing, said in a release detailing the initiative. "Budweiser has been there for every major milestone -- every record-setting event, home run and no-hitter -- making it the only brand that can authentically put forth a movement of this magnitude. We can think of no better way to honor America's National Pastime than by observing the day and encouraging everyone to celebrate with friends, family and fellow baseball fans."
Smith, a 13-time Gold Glove Award winner who is working as a guest instructor for the Cardinals during Spring Training, remains a central part of Opening Day in St. Louis, where he is introduced each year as one of the organization's Hall of Famers.
"I don't know if I have a favorite Opening Day memory, because in St. Louis, that's always a special day for everybody -- it's already a holiday there for most people," Smith said. "But just having the opportunity to put on the red jacket and sport that around with the other Hall of Famers in St. Louis -- which we have seven guys who are a part of the Hall of Fame -- it's very, very special. The excitement that is created by Opening Day -- not only in St. Louis, but across the country -- is what this is all about."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less