Kids learn about health at Royals PLAY event

Participants discuss proper techniques, what to avoid as athletes

Kids learn about health at Royals PLAY event

KANSAS CITY -- As a pitcher in the Majors, Royals right-hander Dillon Gee is used to being grilled by reporters. On Thursday, he faced a much tougher audience.

Gee took part in an event in the 2016 PLAY Campaign -- in conjunction with the Taylor Hooton Foundation and the Henry Schein Cares Foundation -- hosted by the Royals in which groups of children were able to listen to various speakers throughout Kauffman Stadium, focusing on health, PED use and proper training techniques.

While Gee's role with the team usually involves him being on the mound or in the bullpen, on Thursday, he was assigned to the dugout, informing the children about the harm PEDs can cause and answering any questions they had about them.

"I've never done drugs," Gee said, answering a question from one group. "It makes me feel really good about myself … knowing that I went out there and earned everything I have on my own."

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While it's tough to know how much of the information the kids are able to grasp, especially in groups with kids ages 8-9 and younger, the message is still important. Royals head athletic trainer Nick Kenney spoke to the kids at the beginning of the day and patrolled around Kauffman Stadium during the event.

Kenney said there's an importance to having the conversation, and it's the same way with a lot of things parents tell their kids when they're young. Even if the children don't necessarily understand everything, that reinforcement is crucial, especially with a topic as serious as PED use.

"It's kind of like our parents used to say: 'One day you'll understand,'" Kenney said. "Even if they don't completely understand it, when they hear that it's bad … it becomes a constant message."

Outside the dugout, the kids rotated through three other stations. In the outfield, they were able to run around cones and learn about stretching with strength coach Ryan Stoneberg.

Inside the stadium, they went to the batting cages to talk about nutrition with team nutritionist Mitzi Dulan, and they even were allowed into the training room, where they sat up on the tables, learning about some of the misconceptions of training and how it's actually more preventative work than anything else.

"It's our No. 1 goal to keep our guys healthy," assistant athletic trainer Kyle Turner said.

The event lasted two hours, culminating in a photo in right-center field. It capped off a day where the children were able to learn about the things to do as an athlete, and perhaps more importantly, what to avoid.

"A lot of this stuff would've been helpful for me to learn at a young age," Gee said. "I would really hope they're not faced with this decision anytime soon, but you just never know.

"They just told us a stat earlier: Fourteen years old is about the time that a lot of these kids are starting to take steroids. That just seems crazy to me."

Scott Chasen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Kansas City. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.