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First lady announces 'Let's Move!' campaign

First lady announces 'Let's Move!' campaign

Let us go forth awhile, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our close rooms ... the game of ball is glorious.
-- Walt Whitman

On any given day or night in Major League Baseball, you might see Curtis Granderson running down a deep fly ball, Josh Johnson enduring and throwing high heat, Ryan Braun making a diving All-Star catch, Paul Konerko hitting rockets in the batting cage and then in the game, Carlos Gonzalez climbing a wall, Andrew McCutchen stealing a base, David Eckstein chasing down a grounder and Billy Butler stretching for a putout at first.

The glorious game of baseball has always been at its core an undertaking of exercise first and foremost, and now that point is being taken to a new generation. Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association are teaming up with the White House, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Ad Council and first lady Michelle Obama to support "Let's Move!" -- a campaign started by the first lady with the goal of solving the challenge of childhood obesity so America's youngest children will reach adulthood at a healthy weight.

The first lady announced the new relationship at Camden Yards prior to a baseball skills clinic conducted by members of the Orioles and Rays for a group of young people participating in local Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) and Boys & Girls Clubs of America programs. In addition, the first lady spoke to the young people about making healthy choices as they relate to nutrition and physical fitness.

"The truth is, guys, you are supposed to be getting at least 60 minutes of active play every single day," Obama told the participants. "That's what has led athletes to be the great players they have today. Because they never stop moving. That's what you guys need to do and that's why we're here.

"We've got to get you guys focused and moving. ... When these players were kids they found a sport that they loved. They practiced and practiced and practiced until they were better at it than anybody else. We want you guys to do the same thing."

Obama will be part of a first-pitch ceremony before Tuesday night's game there between the Rays and Orioles, emphasizing the initiative. The Orioles have urged fans to arrive early due to ramped up security measures.

"Major League Baseball's RBI program and their support of Boys and Girls Clubs around the country have helped millions of kids lead happier, healthier, more active lives," Obama said. "Through these important public service announcements, we will reach even more kids and families about the need for better nutrition and increased physical activity, and I want to thank MLB and the Players Association for their commitment to the 'Let's Move!' campaign."

"Major League Baseball is pleased to support this vitally important campaign for the young people in our country," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "The health and welfare of the country's youth is a top priority for Major League Baseball. I applaud the first lady for her leadership in this effort and continue to pledge our dedication towards fighting childhood obesity."

The commissioner's wife, Sue, was also on hand for the activities on Tuesday morning in Baltimore. She applauded the first lady's initiative and pledged Baseball's support.

"Nothing is more precious to us than our children and grandchildren's health and well-being," said Mrs. Selig. "Thank you, Mrs. Obama, for bringing childhood obesity to the forefront and bringing it to our nation's attention. Major League Baseball will help you in any which way we can."

MLB, the MLBPA, USDA and the Ad Council -- the leading producer of public service advertisements in the U.S. -- have produced 30 TV and 30 radio PSAs (one of each for each club) featuring a different Major Leaguer in each spot. The spots, which have been created pro bono by volunteer advertising agency McCann Erickson New York, will begin airing Tuesday night, with the debut of the PSA featuring Orioles catcher Matt Wieters.

Granderson, the Yankees representative, who started his nonprofit Grand Kids Foundation in 2008, will be a national spokesperson for the program.

"As a member of the Major League Baseball family, I hope that we can educate young people on a variety of topics to help them in their development and communicating the importance of physical fitness and that living a healthy lifestyle is critical," Granderson said. "I'm proud and honored to be invited by the first lady to take part in this special event, and I pledge to do my part to continue stressing the importance of staying active to today's youth."

National Leaguers featured in the PSAs include: Milwaukee's Braun, San Diego's Eckstein, Colorado's Gonzalez, Florida's Johnson and Pittsburgh's McCutchen, Dan Haren of the D-Backs, Jason Heyward of the Braves, Xavier Nady of the Cubs, Joey Votto of the Reds, Jason Castro of the Astros, Jamey Carroll of the Dodgers, Jeff Francoeur of the Mets, Greg Dobbs and Brad Lidge of the Phillies, Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals, Matt Cain of the Giants and Adam Dunn of the Nationals.

American Leaguers, in addition to Wieters and Granderson, include: Chicago's Konerko and Kansas City's Butler, Kevin Youkilis of the Red Sox, Travis Hafner of the Indians, Justin Verlander of the Tigers, Joel Pineiro of the Angels, Justin Morneau of the Twins, Kurt Suzuki of the A's, Garrett Olson of the Mariners, Matt Garza of the Rays, David Murphy of the Rangers and Adam Lind of the Blue Jays.

"On behalf of all Major Leaguers, the Players Association is honored to join the first lady and Major League Baseball in this effort to inspire youth to lead healthy lifestyles," said MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner. "Staying in shape is vital to the on-field success of a ballplayer, and Major Leaguers are eager to help young people lead active and healthy lives."

The TV and radio PSAs will roll out throughout the remainder of the season in ballparks around the country and in Toronto, on MLB Network and online at MLB.com, and will be distributed to media outlets nationwide this summer by the Ad Council. Per the Ad Council's model, the PSAs will air in advertising time donated by the media.

"Let's Move!" cultivates the appreciation of nutritious food and inspires kids to engage in physical activity. It empowers parents and caregivers by emphasizing their roles in making healthy choices for children and stressing the importance of access to nutritious foods in schools and communities. "Let's Move!" was launched in February 2010 in partnership with the USDA, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the President's Council on Physical Fitness, Sports and Nutrition and other members of the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity.

"Major League Baseball is thrilled to join with the White House on the 'Let's Move' initiative," said MLB's executive vice president of business Tim Brosnan. "As our commissioner often says, we're a social institution, we believe all our clubs have an obligation to give back to our community. Anytime the White House gives the chance to partner on something that's good for our communities, we're all in."

The "Let's Move!" program is a continuation of White House efforts to unite families and inspire them to take real and sustained actions to eat better, be more active and make a commitment to embracing healthier lifestyles. The new PSAs unveiled today are part of a larger "Let's Move!" public education campaign managed by the Ad Council, in partnership with the USDA and HHS.

Demonstrating the initial commitment to the cause of anti-obesity, MLB announced the expansion of its "Wanna Play?" initiative, a program dedicated to youth fitness, in February 2010. "Wanna Play?" encourages boys and girls ages 6-12 to increase their physical fitness by focusing on agility, coordination and balance while infusing baseball and softball elements throughout the program. The program is administered by Boys & Girls Clubs of America, with the goal of reaching 175,000 Club members.

Additionally, this past June, the MLBPA joined forces with the Partnership for a Drug Free America to create a new online campaign, "Healthy Competition: A Resource for Parents," at TimeToTalk.org/healthycompetition -- offering unique insight from Major League players on raising healthy teens and student-athletes.

With Mrs. Obama taking part in the first-pitch ceremony at Camden Yards, MLB and the Orioles not only urge fans to arrive early but also to minimize items they bring into the stadium. All fans will be required to pass through magnetometers, which will cause delays when entering through gates. Gates A and H will open at 5 p.m. ET and remaining gates will open at 5:30. Fans are encouraged to arrive at their seats by 6:30 for the start of pregame ceremonies.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Follow @MLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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