- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Canny marketers have tiptoed into “We the People,” the White House’s public petition outreach that draws motley interest groups with myriad causes. And now the cause is baseball, beer, opening day revels and official blessings. The pointman here is a certain Mr. Smith, who is indeed going to Washington. That would be Baseball Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith, who is among those determined to make the opening day of Major League Baseball a national holiday.

“On opening day, every team is in contention to win the World Series. Nothing can top that optimism, with the excitement felt at every level of play — from the players to the most casual of baseball fans,” the exuberant Mr. Smith says. “Now let’s make it an official holiday.”

Yes, he supports a petition for the cause at the White House website, organized by none other than Budweiser, the “Official Beer of Major League Baseball, ” which is aggressively marketing a sign-up drive, complete with video pitches, a link directly to WhiteHouse.gov and multiple ads buys on ESPN.com. The beer behemoth hopes the petition will garner 100,000 signatures by opening day on March 31, thus drawing an official White House response.

“Millions of baseball fans already consider opening day to be an unofficial national holiday,” says Tim Brosnan, the league’s executive vice president for business. And the stats he cites: 22 million people admit to playing “hooky” from work to attend or watch an opener.


The fans, meanwhile, have already batted up.

“Declare Major League Baseball Opening Day a national holiday,” states the petition, which was filed online Monday, drawing some 12,000 signatures in 24 hours. “Opening day brings with it the promise of a new beginning. Every fan is in good spirits. It’s a day of celebration … Join us in our quest to make sure every American can exercise their inalienable right to celebrate the day those two magical words are uttered for the first time: “Play ball!”

OH LOOK AT US, GOP

Wednesday is deadline day for cities who are falling all over themselves to woo the Republican National Committee and its big, fat 2016 presidential convention to their fair towns. The contenders are Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Kansas City and three spots in Ohio: Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus.

“Las Vegas is ready. This is what we do. Las Vegas 2016,” proclaims a noisy promotional video for Sin City that extols the virtues of 10.7 million square feet of exhibit space, 15 of the world’s 20 largest hotels and 900 retail stores, among other things.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock step up to the camera on behalf of the Mile High City, pledging a “commitment to the RNC” for the event. Will legal recreational marijuana in the state hold sway? The video does not broach the question.

For Phoenix, former U.S. Senator John Kyl touts the GOP’s favorite “icons” who call Arizona home — Sen. John McCain, Sandra Day O’Connor, Gov. Jan Brewer, Barry Goldwater, Jr.

“Arizona’s Republican credentials are without comparison. It is the perfect venue for the rise of the Republicans,” an earnest Mr. Kyle advises viewers Yes, well. Why all the fuss? Simply put, a presidential convention typically brings an influx of up to 40,000 visitors and up to $200 million in revenue to the host city. Phoenix may generate the most drama. While local heavyweights pitched the GOP, the Democratic National Committee placed Phoenix on its short list of potential host sites.

“The city might want to start stockpiling red, white and blue balloons: Phoenix could host both the Republican and Democratic national conventions in 2016,” reports KTAR, a Phoenix talk radio station.

MR. JOHNSON DEBUTS

On radar Wednesday: Department of Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson goes before a full House Committee on Homeland Security hearing touted under the heading: “The Secretary’s Vision for the Future — Challenges and Priorities.” Things get rolling at 10 a.m. and can be viewed live online here: Homeland.house.gov

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