Opening Day a National Holiday? White House Isn't Playing Ball

Jim Young/Reuters Photo

Many Americans celebrate their favorite holiday at the beginning of spring - and it isn't Easter.

Opening Day, the kick-off of Major League Baseball's new season, is taking place today and fans are heading to ballparks around the country.

But some of the truly die-hard are arguing that the umpire's inaugural shout to "Play ball!" should be a bona fide U.S. holiday - and they have the signatures to prove it.

The White House, however, isn't playing ball.

A petition on the White House's "We The People" website seeking to declare Opening Day a national holiday got shot down by White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest. He said that the Commander-in-Chief has historically held Opening Day in high regard, but the decision to make it a national holiday is out of his hands.

"While we are sympathetic to your pitch to make Opening Day a national holiday, it's a little outside our strike zone: creating permanent federal holidays is traditionally the purview of Congress," Earnest wrote in a response. "So, it's up to the men and women on Capitol Hill to decide whether to swing at this pitch."

The petition argued that the season opener is more than just a game, it's an American tradition and deserves to be recognized as such.

"MLB Opening Day is more than just the beginning of the season. It's a symbol of rebirth," the petition, created on Feb. 24, reads. "The coming of spring. The return of America's national pastime. It's a state of mind where anything is possible."

As of today, it had attracted more than 102,000 signatures - surpassing the 100,000 signature threshold required for the Obama administration to issue a formal response.

Earnest said the White House will be celebrating the big day by welcoming 2013 World Series champions the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday.

"Meanwhile, I'll spend that day visualizing what it would be like to welcome my 2014 World Series Champion Kansas City Royals to the White House," Earnest joked. "That is, after all, the best part of Opening Day: every team is tied for first place and poised to make a run at the Fall Classic."