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National PLAY Campaign comes to Tropicana

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Wiffle balls were flying when the National PLAY Campaign came to Tropicana Field on Saturday. David DeJesus would've been proud.

The Rays outfielder took the field after the Wiffle ball games were over to speak to dozens of children and their parents as part of the PLAY event at The Trop. PLAY (Promoting a Lifetime of Activity for Youth) runs interactive fitness seminars at all 30 Major League ballparks to teach kids about living and eating healthy and warn them about the dangers of steroid and PED use.

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DeJesus held a question-and-answer session with the PLAY participants, touching on subjects such as his current hand injury, eating healthy on road trips and his childhood playing with the classic thin yellow Wiffle bat in his backyard.

Head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield, the Rays training staff, and Don Hooton, Jr. of the Taylor Hooten Foundation also helped run the seminar activities. There were wiffleball games, stretching and running drills in the outfield with the Rays trainers and educational talks given by Hooton, Porterfield and DeJesus.

"It was awesome, man. We probably had the best turnout we've ever had in this event," said Porterfield, who stressed working hard, taking breaks from technology to go outside and get active and above all, not being lazy.

"If we can relay that message," he said, "then it was well worth it."

The PLAY event was a combined effort of the Rays, the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS), the Taylor Hooton Foundation, the Henry Schein Cares Foundation and Major League Baseball Charities.

PLAY was created in 2004 to teach children about living healthy lives, and since its inception, PBATS has conducted more than 125 PLAY events.

This year, for the first time, PBATS partnered with The Arc -- the nation's largest community-based organization for serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities -- allowing children and adults with disabilities to join in Saturday's event.

The Taylor Hooton Foundation was formed in honor of Taylor Hooton, who died by suicide in 2003 after taking anabolic steroids, by his family and friends -- including Taylor's brother, Don, Jr., who was in attendance Saturday. The organization partnered with PLAY in 2008.

DeJesus is a charter member of the foundation's Advisory Board of Major Leaguers, and he is responsible for bringing the foundation's "All Me, PED Free" t-shirts into the Tampa Bay locker room, which many players sport in the clubhouse before and after games.

"I lost my brother 11 years ago after he made the uneducated decision to begin using anabolic steroids," Hooton, Jr. said. "Yet nobody in the schools is talking about how dangerous they can be.

"I wanted to get out there and talk to kids so that they know not to go down that path or at least give them the knowledge of what path they would be going down."

David Adler is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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