White House Nixes Baseball Holiday Idea

Cardinal great Ozzie Smith, shown here in 1987, was the public face of the petition.

Cardinal great Ozzie Smith, shown here in 1987, was the public face of the petition. Gene Puskar/AP file photo

Budweiser's digital petition is a swing and a miss.

Sorry, baseball fans. Everyone will be getting mail today, government employees will be working and banks will be open today, no thanks to the White House.

The Obama administration responded Friday to a We The People petition calling for Major League Baseball's Opening Day to be declared "an American holiday." The petition was posted in late February by Budweiser, with Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith as its main ambassador. The petition reached 100,000 signatures late last week and has over 102,000 signatures as of Monday morning.

The petition is largely a marketing push by the brewing giant. It relies on nostalgia, calling the sport "America's pastime" -- according to polls, baseball is the actually the second-most popular American sport, behind football -- and recalling the hope and possibility of an 0-0 record and a full season in front of a team.

It’s a state of mind where anything is possible. You can feel the electricity in the air. Opening Day brings with it the promise of a new beginning. Every fan is in good spirits. It’s a day of celebration. It’s a day of hope. It’s a day that, for generations, has been looked forward to by baseball fans every off-season. It’s an American tradition, and it deserves to be recognized as an American holiday.

The White House does not see Opening Day in the same light. In its pun-laden response, "lifelong Kansas City Royals fan" and Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest mentioned Barack Obama's White Sox fandom and shifted responsibility to Congress.

While we are sympathetic to your pitch to make Opening Day a national holiday, it's a little outside our strike zone: creating permanent federal holidays is traditionally the purview of Congress. So, it's up to the men and women on Capitol Hill to decide whether to swing at this pitch.

After posting the petition, a spokesman for Budweiser told MLB.com that Opening Day marks "a true sign of spring's arrival." According to a quick Web search, other things vying for that title include: Allergy season, The Master's golf tournament, motorcyles, insects and birds.

In an interview with MLB.com, Smith called signees a "a fraction of the 1.3 million who will attend Opening Day games this year" and said he would "march [the petition] up to the White House."

"The day is already an unofficial holiday," Smith said. "But now it's time to make it official."

Even if the White House and Congress were more open to the concept, the specifics of Opening Day itself are not set in stone. For decades, Opening Day was traditionally the afternoon of the first week of April, with the league's oldest franchise (the Cincinnati Reds) beginning the season with the first game and a parade in Cincinnati. However, in the late 1990s, MLB began starting the season earlier for television. MLB has since opened the season overseas.

This season, the Los Angeles Dodgers played a two-game series in Australia last week as an opportunity to globalize the game, irking some players. The team then played on "Opening Night" Sunday evening in San Diego, having finished three games before 27 teams have played even on what Budweiser considers Opening Day.

Smith's St. Louis Cardinals will open the season in Cincinnati against the Reds on Monday at 4:10 pm.

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