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Hutchison visits middle school after teacher's letter

Blue Jays pitcher discusses wellness, plays dodgeball, answers student questions

The act of writing a letter can be a powerful thing.

That's all it took to get Blue Jays starting pitcher Drew Hutchison to play a game of dodgeball with a class of fifth- and sixth-grade students from Lynngate Junior Public School in Toronto on Thursday.

Hutchison and Ace, the team's mascot, paid the students a highly anticipated visit over their lunch hour, during which the Blue Jays hurler posed for pictures and signed autographs, all in the name of health and wellness.

But it was a letter written by the class' teacher, Erin Hood, that made the day a reality.

Every year, teachers Hood and Stacey Nevard take their class to a Blue Jays game. It's a field trip to the Rogers Centre that's full of excitement, something of a reward for a job well done during the school year.

Hood wrote a letter to the Blue Jays following her class' trip there last year.

That letter prompted an immediate response from the club, one that eventually led to the class being recommended for a player visit. The team does about five of those per season.

Hood said she was thrilled by the response alone, and even more so when she learned the class had been selected. And so were the kids.

"They were pumped," she said. "It's good for these kids, because a lot of them come from families where they don't get an opportunity to do a lot of sports. So to have [Hutchison] come in here and really show them that anything is possible, is very special."

Hutchison said school visits are something that excites him as much as it does the students. The 23-year-old shied away from throwing his low-90s fastball during the dodgeball match, instead using his left hand.

"I probably had more fun than they did," said Hutchison, who held a Q & A and autograph and photo sessions with the students as the afternoon wrapped up. "This is something I enjoy doing. You want to come out and put a smile on their face, and maybe if you have an impact on one kid, it's all worth it."

After missing the entire 2013 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, an injury that limited how much he could exercise, Hutchison said he knows firsthand how a lack of physical activity can affect a person.

So his message to the kids Thursday was simple:

"It's about staying active, healthy," he said. "[Life's] not always about video games or sitting on the couch. Being outside and staying active is key to staying healthy."

For Hood and her students, the visit further fueled the excitement surrounding their annual field trip to an upcoming Blue Jays game.

Their calendar is marked for June 11, when the Blue Jays host the Twins.

"These kids don't get a lot of opportunities to get to games, but they know we're going June 11, and they're already looking forward to it," she said. "A lot of them came in today showing off the new caps and shirts they bought."

Jamie Ross is an associate reporter for
Read More: Toronto Blue Jays, Drew Hutchison