Hall of Famers PLAY Ball in Cooperstown in Support of Museum’s Education Programs

The Wizard and Hall of Fame Teammates Craig Biggio, Goose Gossage and John Smoltz Take the Field with Fans as Hall of Fame Weekend Begins

John Smoltz exhaled and broke into a big smile.

If there was a happier Hall of Famer in Cooperstown on Saturday, the Class of 2015 inductee wouldn’t have known where to find him.

“I wouldn’t miss this because of the experience I had last year, where I don’t think I breathed,” said Smoltz, who returned to the Hall of Fame Induction Site on Friday for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s PLAY Ball event. “Now I have a chance to enjoy it. My goal is to get here as many years as I can to enjoy this process.”

Smoltz shared his enthusiasm for Cooperstown with Museum supporters on Friday at PLAY Ball along with host Ozzie Smith and his Hall of Fame friends Craig Biggio and Goose Gossage. The Hall of Famers had the chance to swap stories with The Wizard of Oz and his Hall of Fame teammates in the Museum’s iconic Plaque Gallery before moving to an amateur diamond at the Induction Site during a picture-postcard summer morning in Cooperstown. Later, participants fielded a few ground balls, turning double plays to help support the Museum’s educational initiatives.

“I think it’s a great way to keep a connection with the fans,” said Smith, the Hall of Fame’s Education Ambassador, who has hosted the annual PLAY Ball event since being elected to the Hall of Fame in 2002. “It’s truly about guys being able to give back and being willing to give back. And everybody that has come out here over the years, I think they’ve enjoyed it.”

Hall of Fame Weekend 2016 officially got under way on Friday with the 15th edition of Ozzie Smith’s Players, Legends and You, which raises funds for diversity scholarships for the Hall of Fame’s Frank and Peggy Steele Internship Program for Youth Leadership Development.

PLAY Ball raised nearly $30,000 for the Museum’s education program on Friday.

Hall of Fame Weekend 2016 runs July 22-25 in Cooperstown. The Class of 2016, featuring Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza, will be inducted at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 24 at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown. Admission to the Induction Ceremony is free.

The 2016 Induction Ceremony will be televised live on MLB Network. Greg Amsinger, Peter Gammons, Brian Kenny, Al Leiter and Harold Reynolds will host MLB Network’s live telecast of the 2016 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Coverage begins at noon on Sunday.

The Induction Ceremony will also be available via a webcast at www.baseballhall.org.

The Hall of Fame Awards Presentation will be held at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 23 at Doubleday Field and will feature the presentation of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for writers to Dan Shaughnessy of The Boston Globe; and the posthumous presentation of the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasters to Graham McNamee. The Awards Presentation will also feature an appearance by New York City Fire Department Battalion Chief Vin Mavaro, who will share his thoughts and memories about baseball’s role in helping New York City, and the nation, begin to recover from the 9/11 attacks. In late September of 2001, Mavaro found a baseball in the rubble of the World Trade Center. Upon donating it to the Museum, Mavaro explained at the time that the ball offered an unexpected, almost visceral, reminder of the ideal so many of us learned as children, the notion that a game – and its immortals – can have melding, communal power.

Goose Gossage, Ozzie Smith, Craig Biggio, and John Smoltz started the Hall of Fame Weekend festivities Friday at the Hall of Fame's PLAY Ball event, in support of the Museum's education programs. (Ben Platt / National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

MLB Network’s Greg Amsinger will emcee the Awards Presentation , which is free and open to the public. MLB Network will televise the Awards Presentation at 11 a.m. ET on Sunday, July 24 prior to the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.

Also on Saturday, July 23, the Hall of Fame Parade of Legends returns for a seventh year to provide fans with more thrills. Hall of Famers will ride down Main Street in trucks provided by Ford Motor Company en route to a private reception at the Museum during the 6 p.m. parade, with the staging for this year’s Parade to take place at Doubleday Field, immediately following the Awards Presentation .

The Museum maintains the following Hall of Fame Weekend hours: Saturday, July 23: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Sunday, July 24: 8 a.m. - 9 p.m.; Monday, July 25: 9 a.m. - 9 p.m. For Hall of Fame Members, doors open at 7 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday and at 8 a.m. on Monday. As always, Hall of Fame Members receive free admission. Interested parties may enroll in the Membership Program in advance or at the Museum.

Follow all the action during Hall of Fame Weekend with the #HOFWKND hashtag on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google+. Stay tuned to @MLB and @BaseballHall on Twitter as Hall of Famers visit the Social Media Lounge for Twitter takeovers. And follow @baseballhall on Periscope for live behind-the-scenes looks all weekend long.