First-graders at Blue Ridge Elementary had a break in their typical Monday morning routine last week. Instead of taking instruction from teachers, the students got a lesson from the Wizard.
Ozzie Smith, a member of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame and former St. Louis Cardinal, paid a visit to the Evans school to promote a worthy cause.
"We had Susan Still, the astronaut here once," Blue Ridge Elementary Principal Joyce Long said, "but nobody of the caliber of Ozzie Smith."
Smith was there to do more than sign autographs and take photos.
"It's for kids to understand the importance of reading," he said as more than 80 first-graders filed into the school's media center. "There are a lot of (Major League Baseball) players going around doing what I'm doing here - stressing the importance of reading."
Smith was interviewed during the school's morning announcements for the entire school to hear. He then welcomed the school's first-graders into the media center to read from a new children's book called Hello, Fredbird about a typical day in the life of the St. Louis Cardinals' mascot.
After the book was finished, Smith took questions from the children, led them in singing a round of Take Me Out to the Ball Game and reminded them of the importance of reading.
"It gives them such a boost to see what they can become," Long said. "So many of them will remember this. Our kids need good role models today, and Ozzie Smith is a good one."
Smith met each child personally and gave them each an autographed hat. A long line of teachers and school staff also found their way to the media center.
"It's probably their parents who know more about me than the kids," said Smith, who retired from the game in 1996.
After the morning visit, Smith toured the local E-Z-Go plant in Augusta. E-Z-Go sponsored Smith's visit to the Augusta area, which included a speaking engagement at the Boys and Girls Club Steak-and-Burger Dinner on Tuesday.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.