CHICAGO -- For many young athletes, questions about performance enhancing drugs and healthy lifestyles are rarely as simple as right or wrong. Teenagers know they shouldn't be using steroids, but knowing the difference between a helpful supplement and a dangerous or illegal PED can be more difficult.The Cubs and the
CHICAGO -- For many young athletes, questions about performance enhancing drugs and healthy lifestyles are rarely as simple as right or wrong. Teenagers know they shouldn't be using steroids, but knowing the difference between a helpful supplement and a dangerous or illegal PED can be more difficult.
The Cubs and the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Association recognize the education on the subject is limited, so as part of their National PLAY Campaign, they teamed up with the Taylor Hooton Foundation, the Henry Schein Cares Foundation and the Ruderman Family Foundation to host a two-hour baseball clinic and healthy lifestyles seminar on Tuesday at Wrigley Field.
"This is really the perfect classroom," said Don Hooton Jr., the president of the Taylor Hooton Foundation. "You're here at Wrigley Field. We're talking to the kids about this and then they're out on the field with the best athletic trainers in the world learning how to do things the right way."
Hooton has felt the negative impact of anabolic steroid abuse among young athletes personally, as his brother, Taylor, died when he was 16 years old in 2003 after abusing the drugs. Hooton told his brother's story and explained the dangers of using anabolic steroids to a few dozen youth baseball players, many of whom are the same age Taylor was when he first turned to banned substances.
Taylor's coach, Hooton said, told Taylor he needed to put on muscle for the upcoming high school season. Some of his teammates were already using anabolic steroids and were stronger than him. Taylor figured it was worth a shot. Six months later, Taylor was dead.
In the wake of the tragedy, Don Sr. founded the Taylor Hooton Foundation with the goal of teaching kids and parents about performance enhancing drugs and dietary supplements.
Hooton said the impact of this event's setting could not be overstated.
"They're able to hear from the athletic trainers on the same field that their favorite baseball players play on," Hooton said. "To hear from the guys that take care of the Cubs' players to ensure that they're doing things the right way and explaining how to do things the right way without the use of drugs."
Following Hooton's talk, the kids took the field and went through baseball drills with Cubs athletic trainers. Also working out with the groups were children with Down Syndrome. In 2014, the PLAY campaign became the first program in professional sports to include children with disabilities.
Once the clinic was over, the children convened for another guest, Cubs pitcher Drew Smyly, who answered questions and discussed the importance of nutrition and staying active, while also cautioning against the use of performance enhancing drugs.
"Talking about performance enhancing drugs and how negative they are on the game, on health and someone's reputation," Smyly said. "Hopefully they listened and could take our advice and realize that choosing the shortest route is not always the best thing."
Matthew Martell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago.