---- — Ozzie Smith spent 19 big league seasons revolutionizing the way shortstops played defense.
But since his Hall of Fame induction in 2002, The Wizard has become a champion of another cause close to his heart: education.
For Smith, it all comes together on Hall of Fame Weekend during his annual PLAY Ball event in Cooperstown.
Smith, the education ambassador for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, will host PLAY Ball with Ozzie Smith on Friday, July 26 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. in Cooperstown. Ozzie will welcome fellow Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson and Juan Marichal as his guests during a morning that gives fans a unique chance to experience on-field moments and stories with Hall of Famers.
PLAY Ball is a museum fundraiser that supports the Hall of Fame’s educational programs and internship scholarships. According to a media release, participants in PLAY Ball each receive on-field round-robin interaction with the Hall of Famers along with special mementos to commemorate their experience. The event will begin at 8 a.m. Friday with an exclusive morning reception in the Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery with Ozzie and his Hall of Fame friends. Following photos, stories and interaction with their Hall of Fame guides, PLAY Ball participants will hit the field at a Cooperstown-area diamond, where they will receive two hours of instruction along with non-stop interaction from some of the greatest players the game has known.
Since hosting the event annually beginning in 2002, Smith has helped raise more than $115,000 for the museum’s educational outreach programs and the Ozzie Smith Diversity Scholarships, presented annually to members of the Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development. Smith, a 13-time Gold Glove Award winner, will lead the PLAY Ball event for the 12th consecutive year.
Henderson, the all-time big league leader in runs, stolen bases and non-intentional walks, was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2009. Marichal earned election to the Hall of Fame in 1983 following a 16-year career where he won 243 games and earned nine All-Star Game selections.
A limited number of spaces for PLAY Ball remain, and a reservation is required. Event pricing is $450 for members, $600 for non-members. Reservations can be made by calling 547-0397. For more information on membership, visit www.baseballhall.org.
The museum maintains the following Hall of Fame Weekend hours: Friday, July 26: 9 a.m. - 9 p.m.; Saturday, July 27: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Sunday, July 28: 8 a.m. - 9 p.m. For Hall of Fame members, doors open at 7 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. As always, Hall of Fame members receive free admission.