White Sox take part in PLAY Campaign

CHICAGO -- Rain prevented on-field activities, but it didn't douse the spirits Wednesday at U.S. Cellular Field.

Rather than running the bases, a contingent of youth players from the White Sox Amateur City Elite (ACE) and Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) programs rotated through five educational stations set up on the main concourse instead, all part of the 2016 National PLAY Campaign's tour.

The stations ranged from improving techniques in baseball to improving nutrition and steering clear of potential pitfalls, such as poor grades and performance-enhancing drugs.

"I definitely got something out of it," said Noah Smith, 13, a shortstop in the ACE program. "I found [the PEDs talk] very important, because it could get you in trouble. I'd heard of PEDs before, but I never knew the consequences were like that. And if you want to play the game for a long time, you need to have a healthy body."

The PLAY Campaign (Promoting a Lifetime of Activity for Youth) holds the educational clinics in every Major League stadium. It was created in 2004 by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society as a way to promote the merits of living a healthy, active lifestyle to kids.

The campaign has since developed partnerships with the Taylor Hooton Foundation and Henry Schein Cares Foundation, which combine for the presentation on PED use and importance of good nutrition.

Don Hooton Jr., wearing the "All Me, PED Free" T-shirt designed and distributed to each Major League team, gave the talk about PED use. Part of his message is about his younger brother, Taylor Hooton, who suffered from depression after using steroids in high school and committed suicide at 17.

"Taylor had aspirations of playing varsity baseball and was told he needed to get bigger if he wanted to do so," Hooton said. "Over half the boys on his baseball team were using anabolic steroids. So, quickly, he was able to purchase the drugs and figured out how his teammates were achieving their goals. So he started using steroids."

The foundation's goal is to educate kids about the dangers.

"[Taylor] started using when he was 16 years old," Hooton said. "The median starting age [for steroid use] is 15 years old. That's super young."

It's also why the topic is discussed during PLAY Campaign stops. Those who attended Wednesday were between 8 and 13 years old, with the oldest nearing high school. They are impressionable ages that could be key to helping them develop as both athletes and people.

"You've got to bring up all this stuff, whether it's PEDs, eating healthy, [living] a healthy lifestyle, school, working hard, family, friends ... all that kind of stuff," said White Sox infielder Tyler Saladino, who spoke to the kids about the importance of maintaining their grades in school. "[Some] are getting ready to go into high school. It's going to be tough and they're going to make a tough transition. The crowds [around them] may change a little bit. They may be exposed to a few things that maybe alter their path a little bit, and I think this is a really important age right now to at least bring the awareness to them. Bring it to their attention, maybe educate them a little on it, and you never know how far it can go."

Brian Hedger is a contributor to MLB.com based in Chicago. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.