The Washington Times-Herald

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May 22, 2014

Obama invites foreign tourists to U.S. attractions

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — President Barack Obama wants the United States to draw 30 million more foreign tourists each year to sites such as the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, according to a plan he was expected to detail in a stop at baseball's iconic shrine Thursday afternoon.

Last year 70 million tourists came to the United States from other countries, according to the White House, and they spent an all-time high of $180.7 billion on hotels, restaurants and other services.

Obama was expected to outline strategies to lure even more people. The Obama administration, for example, hopes to pare down wait times for international travelers arriving at customs checkpoints in U.S. airports. Those times already have been sharply reduced in Chicago and Dallas through technology upgrades.

Shopkeepers, political leaders and residents of this upstate village excitedly anticipated Obama's arrival since word of the presidential visit leaked late last week. Obama would be the first sitting president to visit Cooperstown since Martin Van Buren in 1839.

Then, at 3:07 p.m. Thursday, Marine One finally touched down in Cooperstown, and the president's motorcade made the short drive to the Hall of Fame.

Jeff Idelson, president of the Hall of Fame, was expected to lead Obama on a tour. Andre Dawson, who played outfield for the Montreal Expos and Chicago Cubs during a 21-year career, was expected to join the president, a fan of the Chicago White Sox. Dawson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010.

Obama was expected to see baseball exhibits including “Diamond Dreams," highlighting the role of women in baseball; “Pride and Passion,” exploring the history of African Americans in the game; and “Today’s Game,” featuring the accomplishments of modern players.

Artifacts he would see include Jackie Robinson’s jersey, Babe Ruth’s bat and Jim Thome’s 500th home run baseball.

Obama also handled a few items - something most visitors don't get to do. Among them were a ball that William Howard Taft threw in 1910 in the first-ever presidential first pitch on Opening Day; President Franklin D. Roosevelt's green-light letter declaring that baseball would continue during World War II; "Shoeless" Joe Jackson's shoes; Joe DiMaggio's glove; and a World Series ring.

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