After a 19-year career in Major League Baseball that included 13 National League Golden Glove awards, 15 All-Star appearances and a Hall of Fame induction in 2002, one of the greatest shortstops to ever play the game made his return to Cal Poly for a re-dedication ceremony as Ozzie Smith was honored again in front of the Mustang faithful.
"It's an honor to be back. I want to thank you guys so much for being such an instrumental part of my life," Smith said as he looked out at a sea of former teammates and longtime baseball fans.
In his return, the former San Diego Padre and St. Louis Cardinal became witness to the renovations of Ozzie Smith Plaza outside Baggett Stadium, headlined by Smith's statue placed below the new Hoffman Press Box.
Smith was able to reflect on what it meant to revisit the statue that was first introduced in 2003, a year after his MLB Hall of Fame induction.
“If it happened to me, it can happen to anybody because that was never something I ever dreamed about having a statue," Smith recalled. "I never looked at myself in that same vein. To have the opportunity to have an impact to where people would even consider having a statue and a plaza named after you, is pretty special.
A handful of esteemed speakers had the honor of introducing Smith to the stage like Head Coach Larry Lee who put together a greatest of all time list at every position that included the the Wizard of Oz calling him "The greatest shortstop in Major League Baseball."
One of the many in attendance was the original champion of Cal Poly, Eddie Mack, who won the Mustang's first-ever championship in track and field in 1949.
After the ceremony, Smith went on to sign autographs and take pictures with those who had admired him his whole career. It was eventually capped off by the honorary first pitch before Cal poly baseball played U.C. Irvine for game two of their series.
Smith still resides in St. Louis where he is now the host of Cardinal Insider; a show that focuses on the interesting stories of the ball club’s roster.
“The group that I work with, they make it very easy for me," Smith said. "They kind of put the stories together and I just introduce them so it's a nice it's a nice gig.”