SAN DIEGO -- Nearly 100 children gathered at Petco Park on Wednesday morning to participate in the national PLAY (Promoting a Lifestyle of Activity for Youth) campaign, which spreads awareness about youth health issues by actively engaging young baseball fans in events that encourage exercise and nutrition.
The PLAY program, in its 11th year of existence, was created by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS), and partnered with the Taylor Hooton Foundation to put on Wednesday's event.
The Taylor Hooton Foundation was founded to educate youth about the dangers of steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. The foundation's namesake, nephew of former Major League pitcher Burt Hooton, took his own life when he was 17 years old after suffering from depression related to steroid use as a high school baseball player.
Brian Parker, an educational program manager, has worked with the Taylor Hooton Foundation for eight years, and now travels around the country to MLB ballparks to talk about the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs.
"Our goal is prevention through education," Parker said. "The earlier we can hit them with that message, maybe there's one or two things in the back of their mind that they'll remember when they do encounter this stuff."
He started Wednesday's activities with a short presentation to the 80 attendees that ranged in age from 10-15, relaying Hooton's story and quizzing the audience on facts about steroids.
"The average age of initiation nowadays [into steroid usage] is 15," Parker said. "Even if you're a middle-school-aged student, I don't think it's too early to hear this stuff."
Several Padres personnel also participated Wednesday by chaperoning agility and baseball drills around various sections of Petco Park.
Strength and conditioning coordinator Rick Stauffer taught participants how to properly stretch and conducted agility drills, athletic trainer Todd Hutcheson watched over several sports games in the team's bullpen, and assistant athletic trainer Paul Navarro conducted a baseball scrimmage in the field at the Park at the Park.
"We want to get kids active and get their creative mind to start working," Hutcheson said. "So if they're at home, they don't just flip the TV on or play video games. They go outside and be active and play."
Hutcheson thinks holding programs like PLAY at Major League ballparks goes a long way in helping kids remember what they're hearing.
"I think that they will relate what they learned here with being at the ballpark, where the Major League players are," Hutcheson said. "I think that helps a lot more than just sitting in the classroom."
Will Laws is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.