07/28/2002 7:37 pm ET
Smith will relax, enjoy honor
Hall of Famer glad to be part of select club
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- That was fun. Now it's over. And that's OK by Ozzie Smith.
Smith can now be referred to as the newest Hall of Famer. Not the next inductee, not the guy who will be honored. He's gone through it. He's made his speech, gone to the parties -- well, most of them -- and done the press conferences.
But after his induction on Sunday afternoon, he still had to meet the media one more time. You got the sense that it was OK, though, because he knew that rest was coming.
"I was grateful that this day came," Smith said. "I'm glad it's about to end. Tomorrow, maybe next week I can just get out and take a deep breath, maybe play a little golf or something and truly enjoy it."
He had been going and going for months; then it was amplified since his arrival in Cooperstown on Wednesday. When the day came for Smith to make his speech, the tension climbed yet another notch.
"It does become very nerve-wracking, sitting back there waiting and waiting," Smith said. "You have the people in front of you give their speeches. It seemed like the moment was never coming."
Smith has said repeatedly that the last six months have been among the most draining, stressful and difficult of his life. He understood that the reward was worth it, but he's ready to move on. And he's ready to be part of baseball's most exclusive club.
"It was a very special moment to be inducted into probably one of the most elite fraternities in the world," Smith said. "Sitting on the same stage with Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Sandy Koufax, the game's greatest. I never put myself in that same vein."
The man known as "The Wizard" has discussed what he sees next for himself in the long term, and it probably involves more TV work and perhaps some movies. One reporter suggested a career in politics, following fellow Hall member Senator Jim Bunning, but Smith dismissed that notion.
"I don't know about that politician stuff," he said.
But Smith does know what comes next in the short term. And for a guy with the baseball world at his feet, it's a surprisingly simple desire.
"I'm gonna try to get something to eat," Smith said. "I haven't had much of an appetite the last four or five days. You can imagine the anticipation leading up to a moment like this. Most of those guys that were on that stage, they've always strived for perfection. You want to be at your very best. It takes a lot of energy to be able to fight through this thing. You don't want it to be too emotional, but you don't want it to be unemotional either. The emotional roller coaster that I've been on the last few days has been very taxing from a stress standpoint."
In addition to looking forward, this is also the beginning of the time that the newest Hall of Famer can look back. He can begin to enjoy the whirlwind of experiences of this year. He can appreciate what he has seen, who he has met -- and the 19,000 people who came to see him on Sunday afternoon in this tiny, out-of-the-way town.
"The people that are here today are the true baseball fans," Smith said. "You know that people probably had to go out of their way to get here today. The fact that there were so many of them, it speaks to the support that our organization has. I don't want to pat myself on the back too much, but when people turn out like this, it's very special. To have this many people show up to this, an event like this, (is) very, very special, very heartwarming."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.