SAN DIEGO -- Thanks to his parents' support, Clayton Richard said he never faced the temptation of using performance-enhancing drugs, but the Padres' left-hander knows other children aren't as fortunate as he was.That's why he was happy to take part in the PLAY campaign event Wednesday morning at Petco Park,
SAN DIEGO -- Thanks to his parents' support, Clayton Richard said he never faced the temptation of using performance-enhancing drugs, but the Padres' left-hander knows other children aren't as fortunate as he was.
That's why he was happy to take part in the PLAY campaign event Wednesday morning at Petco Park, where he participated in a Q&A session, signed autographs and told the 50 or so children in attendance about the dangers of steroid usage.
"You can do it the right way," Richard said. "You don't need help from substances. Sometimes, that can be a difficult decision, but when you believe in yourself and you put in the hard work, anything's really a possibility."
PLAY stands for Providing a Lifetime of Activity for Youth and is a national public awareness campaign of the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society in conjunction with MLB Charities and the Taylor Hooton Foundation. The PLAY campaign will host events in all 30 Major League ballparks in 2017.
Richard is the Padres' representative on the Taylor Hooton Foundation's All Me League advisory board. The foundation is named after a Texas high school baseball player who took his own life at 17 after using anabolic steroids. Taylor Hooton's brother, Don Hooton Jr., is the president of the foundation and was at Petco Park on Wednesday to share his brother's story.
The event placed an emphasis on having an active and healthy lifestyle. The children broke into groups for fielding, batting and agility drills in the outfield grass with members of the Padres' training staff.
"Your classroom doesn't get any better," Hooton said. "What better way to educate these kids than putting them on the same field that their role models, their idols, get to play on every single day?
"These lessons will stick for a lifetime."
Volunteers from the Eric Paredes Save A Life Foundation were in the visitors' bullpen, teaching the children the fundamentals of CPR and the use of automated external defibrillators.
"It gives them a certain power and knowledge on how to handle that and possibly save a life," Padres head trainer Mark Rogow said. "It doesn't get any better than that. It's something that we can empower these kids with."
The participants rotated among the stations for an hour before Richard came out in full uniform to speak with them. He started by emphasizing how he reached the level he did without PEDs, before allowing the attendees to ask questions. He discussed playing catch with his father in the backyard, how he grips different pitches and his one career home run.
One child asked whether he knew Babe Ruth.
"How old do you think I am?" Richard responded with a laugh.
Both Hooton and Rogow pointed out that Wednesday was a "once-in-a-lifetime experience" for many of the participants. Richard signed hats, cards, jerseys and balls after his Q&A, asking each of the children whether they had fun. Many of them walked away in shock they had just met a professional baseball player.
Richard hoped the children remembered the lessons of the day as much as the experience.
"It's special to be able to come out on this field, no matter what the situation or circumstances of it," Richard said. "To have them get this opportunity to play baseball in a big league field at Petco Park, that's a special day.
"It's good that we can share that message and make sure that kids understand that there's a right way to do things. … I'm fortunate to be able to be a part of it."
Nathan Ruiz is a reporter for MLB.com based in San Diego.