MILWAUKEE -- The scene at Miller Park on Thursday morning was a beautiful one to Brewers head athletic trainer Dan Wright, who stood near the home dugout and watched a group of 75 kids scattered across the outfield grass, playing baseball.
The kids, who were members of Menomonee Falls Little League, were partaking in the Brewers' annual event as part of the PLAY Campaign, hosted by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society.
"We live in an age where technology is our friend at this point in time, but sometimes that friend can be a deterrent in terms of your physical activity," Wright said. "These kids are outstanding kids. They're active, they come to us and they're really excited about this program. But let's be honest, they're all young kids. They're in the computer age. It's a few generations past me. We try to bring our old style method of getting out and being active and allowing yourself to live a healthy life."
PLAY, which stands for Promoting a Lifetime of Activity for Youth, was created in 2004 to raise awareness about children's health issues and the obesity epidemic in the United States. Since then, it has expanded into a multi-pronged effort to spread positive messages about living a more healthy lifestyle and making good decisions.
On hand Tuesday were several members of the Brewers' training staff, who guided the kids through stations which ranged from agility drills to a discussion about proper nutrition. Brewers pitcher Yovani Gallardo joined in and ran a throwing drill in center field, and Don Hooton of the Taylor Hooton Foundation gave a speech about the dangers of the performance-enhancing drugs that took his son's life.
"We as professional baseball athletic trainers, we have our own jobs with Major League athletes, but we want to reach out to younger kids," said Roger Caplinger, Brewers director of medical operations. It originally started out with childhood obesity and diabetes. We wanted to make sure that kids were informed of how to get out there and play, and get outside and run around and eat right, eat healthy, stay away from harmful drugs and performance enhancing stuff, so we brought it here."
While the kids learned at each station, their parents stuck around for a candid discussion with Hooton, who gave them the facts on performance-enhancing drugs that have become prevalent among teenagers.
"Let's be honest, that's the first gateway," Wright said. "To me, as a parent, I have to be responsible for the examples that I set for my children. I think we have a great group of parents here who are really, really active in their child's lives, and they want information."
Gallardo, who has been part of the event for several years now, was happy to share his experiences with the kids on hand.
"[The best part is] just helping out the kids, seeing the kids out there running around and teaching them the right way," Gallardo said. "It's a beautiful day. What more can you ask for? You're out here playing catch with a bunch of little kids. Seeing the smiles on their faces, I think that's the most important thing."
Caitlin Swieca is an associate with MLB.com.