Fun for kids and Nats at the PLAY event

Fun for kids and Nats at the PLAY event

WASHINGTON -- Joe Ross does not remember much about his days playing youth baseball, but one event does stand out. His A's youth team got to stand on the field with the Oakland A's during the national anthem one day, and former first baseman Jason Giambi picked him up as he walked by.

That's the kind of memory Ross hoped to create during the Nationals PLAY event at Nationals Park on Wednesday morning, when about 75 children participated in activities designed to promote the importance of an active lifestyle.

"Hopefully, with them, they're 8 or 9, but they'll remember coming out, having fun with some Nats players," Ross said. "It's something for them, even if they don't go on to play baseball."

PLAY, which stands for Promoting a Lifetime of Activity for Youth, was formed to help promote healthy lifestyles for children and combat child obesity.

On Wednesday the Nationals' training staff was joined by Ross, right-hander Blake Treinen and outfielder Michael Taylor to run three stations for the participants. With Ross and Treinen, children threw two or three pitches off the bullpen mound to win a piece of gum. Taylor's station had kids practicing the art of robbing home runs against the outfield wall. The trainers also helped the children through stretching and exercise techniques.

"I get to come out and talk and act like a kid at the same time, so that's why it's fun for me," Paul Lessard, the Nationals' head athletic trainer, said. "It's really kind of any activity. It just happens that we're in the baseball world here, that's why we did the drills that we did with baseball, but we also did other strength and conditioning stuff just to promote activity."

"It's nice just to see their excitement to come out here and play the game," Taylor said. "Get them outside and being active, I think it's very important."

The final station was a home run derby, which Ross called his favorite portion of the event. One kid succeeded twice against Ross, and even dropped his bat emphatically after his final swing for good measure.

Those are the memories that could stick with children for the long haul.

Jamal Collier covers the Nationals for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.