Rangers host youth to promote healthy living

ARLINGTON -- Don Hooton Jr. has seen the effects performance-enhancing substances have on young adults, and he's doing everything he can to prevent it from happening again.

Hooton, the president of the Taylor Hooton Foundation, encountered it when his brother Taylor took his own life at 17 after using those substances, and Don began the foundation in 2004 to better educate children about the harmful effects. The Taylor Hooton Foundation has spoken to more than 1 million children and made its latest stop on Friday at Globe Life Park in a partnership with PLAY (Promoting a Lifetime of Activity for Youth) and the Texas Rangers to promote a healthy lifestyle.

"This event is really big for us, working with Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS) and the PLAY campaign. It's the biggest classroom you could have," Hooton said. "Going on a baseball field, being able to share my brother's story and educating kids about the dangers of performance-enhancing substances and hearing from the best athletic trainers, strength coaches and players in the game."

Members of local youth baseball teams participated in a handful of stations at Globe Life Park, each of which promoted an active lifestyle. They learned about properly preparing for strength training and staying active in the Rangers' weight room, played Wiffle ball in the left-field corner of the outfield, and underwent agility and running drills in center field with Rangers head athletic trainer Kevin Harmon.

Participants also got to take a few swings in the Rangers' batting cages with third-base coach Tony Beasley and Rangers pitcher A.J. Griffin.

"Just getting them out here and teaching them some baseball and life skills, it's good," Griffin said. "They're at an impressionable age, and just trying to point them in the right direction is a good thing. So it's good to be out here and good to be throwing them some soft toss."

To top it off, the children were treated to a special visit by Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus, who talked about his life, his journey to the big leagues and the importance of staying clean.

"It's a huge deal. Who better else to listen to than their role models? And Elvis Andrus and A.J. Griffin, those are role models," Hooton said. "These kids look up to these guys every day, and to hear right from them how they got to the big leagues, how they stayed in the big leagues and how they got to the pinnacle of their sport and doing it the right way without using drugs is huge. It's an impact that'll last a lifetime for a lot of these young kids."

Sam Butler is a reporter for MLB.com based in Texas. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.