Hall of Fame baseball player Ozzie Smith wants opening day to the major league season recognized as a national holiday. He, along with the Budweiser Clydesdales, took to the streets of Chandler on Wednesday to help get out his message.

Hoping to get 100,000 signatures under the President Obama administration’s We the People petitioning program and forcing the federal government to acknowledge the request, Smith and Budweiser are releasing three commercials to drum up support.

The film crew shot on Tuesday at Surprise Stadium, where the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals host spring training, and on Wednesday shot a “parade” scene in downtown Chandler.

The first video in the campaign was released last week. The next two, each with scenes from Arizona, are scheduled for release March 18 and March 25. All the videos will be posted at Budwesier.com/opening-day.

“It really is an unofficial holiday that we’re trying to make an official holiday,” said Smith, who played four seasons with the San Diego Padres and 15 with the St. Louis Cardinals.

On opening day each year, Smith executed a cartwheel into a backflip in taking his position at shortstop.

“I had a very unique way of starting opening day that became a trademark strictly by accident,” Smith said. “It is one of those things that most people look forward to. For most fans, the start of a new year means optimism. As you come out of spring training and get to opening day it’s a new slate and you can start anew with the promise of what could be and the hope that this could be a magical year.

“Opening day is about family and spending time with family and friends at a ballgame.”

Budweiser said an estimated 22 million Americans admit to having “played hooky” to attend or watch opening day games.

So why not make it a national holiday?

The 100,000 signatures the campaign seeks must come from individuals 21 or older.

“We feel pretty good about our chances of making it,” Smith said.

During the Chandler shoot, Smith rode a Clydesdale-drawn carriage on a couple loops down Arizona Place, Commonwealth Avenue, Buffalo Street, Delaware Street and Boston Street before finally crossing Arizona Avenue.

“It was a perfect Chandler day, and downtown was the perfect backdrop for this commercial,” Mayor Jay Tibshraeny said. “We’ve worked hard to make our city a destination, and are proud to show it off to the entire country.”

The Coach & Willies bar and restaurant at the corner of Arizona Avenue and Boston Street closed down for the day to allow for additional scenes.

“It makes for a long day sometimes, but I think in the end it will be well worth it,” Smith said. “A project like this is not an easy undertaking; it’s a big undertaking. And any time you bring the horses out you get overshadowed, so I’ve been overshadowed a couple times.”

Contact writer: (480) 898-6549 or cgabel@evtrib.com. 

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