Brian Parker, the director of education for the Taylor Hooten Foundation, spoke to the group of around 60 area children first. The Taylor Hooten Foundation teaches children about the dangers of appearance- and performance-enhancing drugs. The organization was created by the friends and family of Taylor Hooten, a 17-year-old baseball player who took his own life in 2003 after using anabolic steroids.
• Great American Ball Park hosts Pitch, Hit & Run
"You're about to work with the best athletic trainers, the best strength coaches in the entire world," Parker said to the children. "The same exact guys that work with your favorite players. They're going to teach you how to do things the right way, exercise, nutrition, all that kind of stuff. I'm here to teach you guys the wrong way. This is the cheating way. The bad way. So you guys are going to get both sides of the picture before you leave here."
Before heading out on the field, the children heard from Adam Duvall, Reds left fielder and a member of the Taylor Hooten Foundation Advisory Board. Duvall, too, highlighted the importance of educating youth on the effects of APEDs.
"I had a good set of parents who really told me, 'Look, work hard and you'll get to where you want to be,'" he said. "And that was important to me, because I didn't want to take the cheap way and try to cheat. I wanted it to be a fair playing field. ... I'm here to convey the message that you can get to the top, you can get to where you want to be by working hard and doing things the right way."
From there the children broke into four groups and went through a series of stations with drills that touched on everything from healthy eating, injury prevention and strength and conditioning. They worked with resistance bands, played tug of war and even showed off their home run trots as Duvall and the training staff gave a few pointers.
For more information on the campaign, visit pbats.com/play.
This past weekend marked the second annual Play Ball Weekend, which featured a variety of youth engagement activities by nearly 200 Major League and Minor League clubs to highlight the fun of youth baseball and softball. It is a complementary program of the Play Ball initiative, designed by MLB to celebrate youth baseball and softball participation. MLB has provided clubs with more than 300,000 youth plastic bat and ball sets to distribute in both ballparks and at community events.
Many MLB clubs hosted skills and physical fitness clinics as well as surprise "takeovers" of youth baseball and softball games or practices featuring appearances by Major League players, alumni, mascots, public address announcers and more. Activities included kids participating in special news conferences, pregame meet-and-greets and catches with players, ceremonial first pitches, public address duties, lineup card exchanges, taking the field with players, postgame running the bases and more. Major League players, coaches and managers wore Play Ball Weekend patches during the weekend's games, and players on home clubs wore custom T-shirts during batting practice on the date of their club's activations.