ARLINGTON -- The 50 or so prep baseball players who showed up at Globe Life Park on Saturday morning got a crash course in doing things the right way as part of the National PLAY Campaign to promote the importance of living a healthy lifestyle.
The main message they got from the likes of Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus, head trainer Kevin Harmon and Don Hooton, whose son Taylor committed suicide after using anabolic steroids, was there are no shortcuts to success in baseball.
It's a message they believe got through to the players and coaches who came from all over North Texas.
"It's really important," Andrus said. "They're at an age right now where they need good advice. They need a good way to do it. They're at a critical age for them as athletes. When I was that age, if I had good advice -- which I did -- it makes the whole thing different."
The boys heard from Andrus, Harmon, Hooton and others from the visiting bullpen at Globe Life Park before heading to different stations. They ran drills in the outfield, visited the weight room and heard about nutrition. The highlight for them was getting to hit in the batting cages, where Andrus worked with the players as they hit off a tee and offered tips.
It was an eye-opening day for many players, who had never been to Globe Life Park or met a Major Leaguer.
"I like seeing how [the Rangers] treat their players, how the trainers take care of them, how we take care of our players and seeing the differences," said Sam Hughes, a junior catcher from Quinlan High School. "I like seeing how the professionals do it, so I can start working my way up to it. It's scary to hear about PEDs. Kids my age are doing it, and there's no way you're supposed to be doing that."
Hughes is just the kind of player the program, which is in its 15th year, is trying to reach. Hooton said the average age for boys to start experimenting with PEDs is 15. Being able to talk to the players, along with some of their coaches and parents, was a huge opportunity.
It also helps to have someone like Andrus on board. Andrus is on the All Me League advisory board for the Taylor Hooton Foundation. Andrus talked to the athletes about how, when he was 16, he saw other players taking shortcuts to try to get ahead. That just made him work harder.
The impact of Saturday's event will hopefully be felt for years to come.
"[Having role models like] Elvis and the other players across the league is extremely important," Hooton said. "Combined with getting to be in a Major League ballpark and [having] MLB and the management staff ... behind it, hopefully every one of these boys is going to remember their day on the field and remember the message they heard today. I think it all works together. We'll never know, but you hope that with these guys at their age, we can get them to think twice. For many of these kids, this will be the only time they get a message about the importance of proper diet, proper exercise and to not take shortcuts."