COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (AP) — In 75 years, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum has attracted more than 160 million visitors and, at last, one sitting president.
Seven-year-old Cooper Hodgdon's bright orange sign emblazoned with "President Obama, Play Ball" welcomed the president to Cooperstown, where businesses were preparing for the first big weekend of tourist season that holds much promise, for a speech on tourism.
Obama visited the quant upstate village on Thursday in a bid to promote a resource he said he feels can give the country more of an economic jolt than it already does.
"It's a great honor to be the first," Obama said at the start of a speech inside the Hall of Fame's Plaque Gallery, with Babe Ruth's bronze likeness hanging on the wall behind him and Hall of Famer Andre Dawson sitting in front. "The good news is we have a great product. People want to come here. We're trying to make it easier. We want to bring in more visitors, faster. Then they can get to Cooperstown faster.
"We're making great strides, but we can do better."
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was late arriving after accepting the Democratic Party nomination on Long Island and watched the president's speech backstage.
"It's great publicity for Cooperstown and the state," Cuomo said. "His message resonates with us. Tourism is big business in the state, a business that we have invested in heavily."
The visit was enough to make Cooper's parents, physicians Travis and Gretchen Hodgdon, pull him out of school for the day.
"We think this is wonderful for tourism," Gretchen Hodgdon said. "This is such a historic event, and for such a small town like Cooperstown it really represents hundreds of small towns across the United States where tourism really is a major economic driver. We're really excited about that."