McCullers, Marisnick take time to PLAY

National campaign educates youth on importance of activity, diet

McCullers, Marisnick take time to PLAY

HOUSTON -- After surrendering his fourth home run in less than five minutes, righty Lance McCullers gave up.

"You guys are making me look bad," McCullers told the group of children to whom he'd been tossing Wiffle balls, instead opting to move to center field.

There he tossed footballs as children ran along the hill, hitting a few in stride for completions.

It was all part of the National PLAY Campaign, which made its stop at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday morning. McCullers joined outfielder Jake Marisnick at the event, speaking to the participants, signing autographs and answering questions ranging from what their typical breakfast contained to which of the two is faster -- Marisnick was easily crowned the winner.

The National PLAY Campaign, created in 2004 by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society in conjunction with MLB Charities and the Taylor Hooton Foundation, aims to encourage an active and healthy lifestyle for children.

It also warns against the use of performance-enhancing drugs. Don Hooton, who started the foundation, shared with the kids the story of his 17-year-old son, Taylor, who committed suicide in 2003 after using anabolic steroids, and he urged them to avoid a similar path.

Kids then scattered along the outfield, rotating through three stations that involved everything from box jumps to high knee runs to home run swings.

"Reminds me of when I was a kid," Marisnick said when he went to the outfield. "Playing Wiffle ball with my brother. They're having a lot of fun out here. We're at the age now where there's a lot of video games and cell phones and stuff, to be able to get out and run around and have fun is a big part of the future."

A fourth rotation was a meeting with team dietitian Roberta Anding, who taught each kid how to "eat like an Astro."

When Marisnick addressed the crowd, he asked how many play video games, which elicited a sizable cheer.

"Boooo," he responded. "I'm not going to lie, though, I played video games growing up. But I can't tell you much about it, I don't remember those times. But I can tell you about growing up with my brothers and friends, getting outside and running around and having fun."

McCullers shared the after-school routine from his youth, racing to the cul de sac with his two younger brothers to play street hockey, kickball or baseball. When the sun set, his mother would whistle for them to come home.

"My best memories and the things that still mean the most to me are being outside and playing with my brothers and friends," McCullers said. "Get outside and play every day and have fun. You're going to remember playing with your childhood friends a lot more than playing Call of Duty."

Chandler Rome is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.