Angels host PLAY event at Angel Stadium

Richards, Skaggs work with kids on fundamental baseball drills

ANAHEIM -- A select group of local youth got a big league experience and education on Tuesday morning at Angel Stadium.

The Angels hosted the 2016 National PLAY Campaign on the field at Angel Stadium, an event that promotes healthy living and decision-making among youngsters in America.

Angels pitchers Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs were on hand, going through fundamental baseball drills alongside the kids. Angels athletic trainers, Adam Nevala and Rick Smith, and team strength and conditioning specialist T.J. Harrington led agility drills at various stations in the outfield and bullpen.

The message directed to the kids and their parents was to get youth to be active and develop healthy lifestyle habits, including proper nutrition and avoiding performance-enhancing drugs and supplements.

"It's just trying to educate them and give them pertinent information, to have the light bulb come on and turn the switch," Smith said.

Another topic was injury prevention, with Nevala advocating the benefits of playing multiple sports as a way to reduce and minimize injuries from overuse.

"These guys played multiple sports growing up and that all brought different components into their game and helped them get where they're at now," said Nevala, motioning to Richards and Skaggs. "If you have an opportunity to cross sports and play different sports, take that opportunity."

The PLAY Campaign was created in 2004 by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society, and it has since conducted more than 150 events inside all 30 Major League ballparks. The PLAY Campaign is also sponsored by MLB Charities, the Henry Schein Foundation and the Taylor Hooton Foundation, which combats steroid use by youth athletes in baseball.

The Taylor Hooton Foundation was established in 2004 after Hooton, a pitcher on the Plano West High School baseball team in Texas, committed suicide at the age of 17 in '03. Hooton's family believes the suicide resulted from depression following Taylor's decision to stop using steroids. MLB began working with the foundation a year later.

Don Hooton Jr., Taylor's older brother, spoke to the group at Angel Stadium about the dangers of steroid use.

"Many of these kids aren't getting education on performance-enhancing drugs in school, so it's very important for these kids to hear a message about the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs and learn from the professionals how to do it the right way," Hooton said.

The youth at the clinic were from Angels RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities), La Quinta High School, Santa Ana High School and USA Premier Baseball.

"This is the best classroom for the kids," Hooton said. "Getting to do the same drills and having professional athletes working out with them, who could ask for a better day?"

Austin Laymance is a reporter for based in Los Angeles. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.