PITTSBURGH -- Late Tuesday morning at PNC Park, one group of children fielded balls in center field and jumped into the padded wall. In right field, another group tested their speed and agility along the warning track. In left field, they ran relays. In the bullpen, they exercised with Pirates
PITTSBURGH -- Late Tuesday morning at PNC Park, one group of children fielded balls in center field and jumped into the padded wall. In right field, another group tested their speed and agility along the warning track. In left field, they ran relays. In the bullpen, they exercised with Pirates physical therapist Kevin "Otis" Fitzgerald.
The Pirates played host to more than 60 kids on Tuesday as part of the national PLAY campaign, emphasizing the importance of children getting outside and living a healthy lifestyle. The Pirates' training staff ran stations with different activities, sports dietician Tavis Piattoly spoke about the benefits of a healthy diet and Pittsburgh pitcher Jameson Taillon answered questions and signed autographs after advising the children to be mindful of what they eat and drink.
"It's just inspiring kids to live a healthy lifestyle, watch what they put in their bodies," said Taillon, part of the Taylor Hooton Foundation's MLB Advisory Board. "These kids are young, but as they get older, they're going to have tough decisions about what they're putting in their bodies and who they're listening to and who they trust with regards to that. You just encourage them to live a healthy, natural lifestyle and watch what you put in your body."
The Promoting a Lifetime of Activity for Youth (PLAY) campaign was created in 2004 by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS) to raise awareness about children's health issues and the obesity epidemic in the United States. PLAY has conducted more than 300 events inside all 30 MLB ballparks, including PNC Park.
"It's a great opportunity to share our office with kids from the city of Pittsburgh," Pirates director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said. "So energetic. I've been doing this for about 13 years in Major League Baseball, and this is probably one of the most energetic groups that we've had. Very engaged, wanting to learn, wanting to learn about their bodies and how they can move on a baseball field."
The entire staff got involved. Tomczyk tossed balls in center field as children simulated making plays at the wall. Assistant athletic trainer Ben Potenziano supervised the running drills in left. Head athletic trainer Bryan Housand set up ladder drills in right. And Fitzgerald ran what Tomczyk called "Body by Otis" in the bullpen.
"This has been an unbelievable opportunity to share our knowledge back with the community," Tomczyk said. "What I hope to do is get them outside. It's no secret that with technology, and there's so many options for our youth and kids to stay inside and stay engaged inside, I think we lose a little bit of that. But this should be a top option.
"Hopefully this will resonate them and see that you don't have to be a Major Leaguer to be physically active."
Last year, PBATS partnered with the Ruderman Family Foundation and National Down Syndrome Society to further the PLAY campaign's outreach. On Tuesday, children from the National Down Syndrome Society took part in what Tomczyk called "truly an all-inclusive event."
With the whole group gathered in center field, Taillon spoke from personal experience about the value of nutrition. The right-hander began working with a nutritionist in 2014 and felt that was when his career took off.
"I've been all over the map, and I feel like I've found that happy medium, that happy lifestyle," Taillon said.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.