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Blue Jays deliver healthy message to kids

Team joined by JDRF for annual PLAY event at Rogers Centre
MLB.com

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays hosted their annual National PLAY Campaign event on Tuesday morning at Rogers Centre, which brought together young athletes to promote the importance of healthy living and an active lifestyle.

For the past 10 years, the Blue Jays have held this event in coordination with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. It all began with Dustin McGowan and Brandon Morrow, two former Blue Jays who are Type 1 diabetics.

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TORONTO -- The Blue Jays hosted their annual National PLAY Campaign event on Tuesday morning at Rogers Centre, which brought together young athletes to promote the importance of healthy living and an active lifestyle.

For the past 10 years, the Blue Jays have held this event in coordination with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. It all began with Dustin McGowan and Brandon Morrow, two former Blue Jays who are Type 1 diabetics.

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"We had two players that had diabetes on the team, so we were thinking about what would really impact," said Blue Jays head athletic trainer George Poulis. "What would help, and what organization could we really help? We chose [the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation] due to that, and then those two players came out and actually spoke to them."

The partnership has continued on between the Blue Jays and JDRF, and it encourages young diabetics as they overcome challenges in their sport. Poulis has seen this grow since the days of McGowan and Morrow, and he believes that their visibility remains important to the younger generation.

"There's a lot more energy to it," Poulis said. "There's more overall excitement. The message being taken back is really good, because these kids are diabetic and they see that they still can have an active lifestyle, still control their levels and things like that. Just knowing that there are diabetic players playing."

The groups were led through four stations on the Rogers Centre outfield. Poulis got them started with a team stretch before they joined third-base coach Luis Rivera to take ground balls and fly balls up against the wall. Assistant athletic trainers Mike Frostad and Jeff Stevenson ran the groups through a relay race, and quality control coach Derek Shelton guided some big swings off a tee in left field.

Tuesday's event also featured a presentation from Bob Copeland, who represented the Taylor Hooton Foundation. Formed in 2004, the foundation is a leader in the education of North America's youth about the dangers of anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing drugs. Copeland spoke to the group about the harmful use of PEDs among young people not just for athletics, but for appearance enhancements.

The Hooton Foundation has founded the All Me League, where young players can pledge to play clean and live by the league's motto of "All Me, PED Free." Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista is part of the league's advisory board.

Created in 2004, the PLAY (Promoting a Lifetime of Activity for Youth) campaign holds events in all 30 Major League ballparks. It is made possible with support from Major League Baseball Charities, the Taylor Hooton Foundation and the Henry Schein Cares Foundation.

Keegan Matheson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Toronto.

Toronto Blue Jays