WASHINGTON -- Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon is one of the familiar faces leading events to promote youth activities and involvement in baseball. He relishes participating in events like the one on Thursday morning, when the 2017 National PLAY campaign made its way to Nationals Park.
The event, featuring children ranging from ages 5-12, promotes the importance of children living a healthy lifestyle and disability inclusion. The children rotated through stations, some educational and some designed to let them play a little baseball, for about two hours prior to Thursday night's game between the Nationals and the Marlins.
"I definitely do enjoy it," Rendon said. "I do love kids. ... I always thought like, 'Why not?' I'm fortunate enough to be in this situation [to] play baseball, and whether I like it or not, kids do see me on TV and all of us on TV. So like I did, watching basketball or baseball, I looked up to other athletes, and they probably do the same thing. There's kids out there that like me, so why aren't I taking the time to give back to them? If they adore me or they look up to me, just to whatever extent, I've got to show them that I care about them as well."
The PLAY campaign is a public awareness campaign that hosts events in all 30 Major League ballparks in 2017, educating youth on everything from healthy eating, injury prevention, strength and conditioning and the dangers of anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. The PLAY campaign is supported by MLB Charities, the Taylor Hooton Foundation and the Henry Schein Cares Foundation.
At Thursday's event, the National Down Syndrome Society was also represented with the support of the Ruderman Family Foundation.
Once the baseball action began, the children were split into a few stations: Sammy Solis took a group into the bullpen for a pitching station; strength coaches Matt Eiden and and Brett Henry led an agility station; Rendon and athletic trainer Greg Barajas did some infield work; and Ryan Raburn and head athletic trainer Dale Gilbert took fly balls with one group.
"Just getting them off their couches and away from video games," Rendon said. "Just good to promote activity. Obviously that's what it's for."
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.