Pirates, Taylor Hooton Foundation promote healthy lifestyle

Event hosted as part of the National PLAY Campaign

Pirates, Taylor Hooton Foundation promote healthy lifestyle

PITTSBURGH -- Major League players working out or needing medical attention usually keep the Pirates' athletic training staff busy. But on Wednesday, a few dozen rowdy kids at PNC Park kept them occupied when they joined forces with the Taylor Hooton Foundation to educate youth about staying healthy and active.

"Grab a ball and go to center field. Go be [Andrew] McCutchen," strength and conditioning coach Ricky White told a subgroup as the kids particpated in agility and baseball drills.

As part of the 2016 National PLAY (Promoting a Lifetime of Activity for Youth) Campaign, the groups try to raise awareness about children's health issues and the importance of living a more active lifestyle. Tavis Piattoly, a representative from the Taylor Hooton Foundation, spoke on the dangers of steroids and how eating nutritious food and exercising regularly is the way to go.

 PLAY at PNC Park photo gallery

Hooton was a 17-year-old high school athlete who took his own life after using anabolic steroids, and the foundation tries to ensure kids are aware of how damaging using drugs to improve athletic performance can be.

Events like these allow the foundation to reach people when they're young and still forming habits, offering advice on healthy options.

"A parent will come up and say, 'What did you learn today?' All these kids are like, 'We learned steroids are bad,'" Piattoly said. "So if that's the one thing we can convey, 'Hey, these things are bad,' hopefully they will know this when they get older."

People working the event hope the kids walk away with better habits they can use in their daily lives.

For head athletic trainer Todd Tomczyk, growing up healthy and active came naturally. His family encouraged eating right and playing outside, but that's not always the case for today's youth -- technology can often encourage a sedentary lifestyle.

"We just played until the sun went down," Tomczyk said. "But promoting movement, get them out and experience what these big leaguers experience on the field, and then take these simple skill sets back with them."

And hopefully the kids will take what they've learned and form habits that will set them up for success.

Sarah K. Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Pittsburgh. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.