CINCINNATI -- It’s not every day that you have the opportunity to walk the same outfield grass as some of your favorite big leaguers, but several local Cincinnatians had that chance on Tuesday.
The Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS) and their PLAY campaign (Promoting a Lifetime of Activity for Youth), in partnership with the Taylor Hooton Foundation -- a nonprofit that strives to educate youth about the dangers of anabolic steroids -- hosted a day of outdoor fitness and wellness education from the confines of Great American Ball Park.
PLAY’s newest installment brought together boys and girls aged 10 to 13, and included several young ballplayers who train with the Reds Youth Academy.
PBATS -- which brought some of the Reds training staff along with them to help facilitate the drills -- set up different stations throughout the outfield that the kids rotated through over the course of the morning.
One group of youngsters that got involved was a baseball team from Madisonville, Ohio.
“This right here is super important,” said Ron Reynolds, a youth coach and father from the area, as he watched his kids from the right-field bleachers.
With wellness education often taking place in the classroom, the Taylor Hooton Foundation’s “All Me” movement gives young kids a much more hands-on learning experience, as they receive training from some of the most skilled professionals across the country in a big league ballpark.
“When you get organizations like the Reds and Major League Baseball [involved], it puts some power behind it,” Reynolds added. “Kids get a better belief of what's going on with this.”
Brian Parker, the director of education for the Taylor Hooton Foundation -- which is named after a Texas high school baseball player who lost his life as a result of anabolic steroids -- began the morning by giving a lesson on the dangers of the drug.
“What we hope is along the way, while they're having fun, they're also picking up on the message as well,” Parker said. “It's not solely about running on the field. There's a reason we're doing it.”
Parker has seen the foundation grow over the years, to the point where several pro athletes have even gotten involved to help promote the message of achieving athletic goals “the right way.”
“For me, education equals prevention. And the earlier you can get them with stuff, even if it's small things … little highlights they can remember down the road, it can only help,” Parker said. “I certainly think this is not too early. It's an important age group to start having these conversations [with].”
While other on-the-field programs are designed to teach fundamentals of the sport, PBATS focuses on giving each child a strong foundation to walk on, understanding that not every kid wants to be a big leaguer.
“This is an opportunity to talk to young people in the friendliest kind of atmosphere about some important issues,” said Neil Romano, an advisor for PBATS. “… And not to do it with a hammer, but to do it with a smile.”
The next stop for PLAY: Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, home of the Royals.