Keuchel, Springer participate in 2014 PLAY Campaign
Astros host 32 kids at Minute Maid Park to promote nutrition and physical activity
HOUSTON -- In right field at Minute Maid Park, four rows of kids from the Astros Urban Youth Academy sat and started to ask pitcher Dallas Keuchel a few questions.
The kids asked questions ranging from topics such as his salary to the role his parents played in his upbringing. Then they wanted to know who the player to his right was, who just walked up.
"Who's that?" one kid asked.
"That's George Springer," Keuchel said.
The 20 minutes of questions and answers between the 32 children and two Astros were the culmination of a morning spent in the Minute Maid outfield as a part of the 2014 PLAY Campaign. The morning's goal was to instill what PLAY stands for, which is Promoting a Lifetime of Activity for Youth.
The kids rotated between four different stations in the outfield grass where they learned about nutrition, stretching, agility drills and the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs before ending with the question-and-answer session.
In the middle of that session, Keuchel broke out of the format to ensure that he got an important message across.
"Me and George, we wouldn't be here if it wasn't for our activity outside, our love for sports and ultimately, being students," Keuchel said. "We got a chance to go play college baseball, but first of all we were students and we went to school. That was a big part of our development into Major League baseball players."
The participants broke into applause after Keuchel's tidbit stressing education, which was a common theme frequently mentioned between the two Astros players.
The PLAY foundation was started in 2004 by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS), which partnered with the American Diabetes Association to raise awareness for childhood obesity and diabetes, according to Neil Romano of The Romano Group, an organization whose objective is to develop socially responsible educational programs.
"The whole deal with the program is to make people aware," Romano said via telephone.
Astros head athletic trainer Nathan Lucero and assistant athletic trainer Rex Jones participated in the event, along with the team's strength and conditioning coach, Jake Beiting. Lucero handled an informational session about nutrition, Jones had a stretching station and Beiting ran the kids through an agility workout.
Donald Hooton of the Taylor Hooton Foundation ran the additional station, in which he directly and thoroughly addressed the dangers and side effects of performance-enhancing drugs. Taylor Hooton, the foundation's namesake, committed suicide at age 17 due to steroid-related depression.
The kids clearly took notice as Springer and Keuchel were asked if they've ever used PEDs. Springer stressed the negative effects the drugs can have on your body, while Keuchel explained the drug-testing policy that players go through.
"In baseball and in sports in genereal, there have been people that use PEDs and steroids and all that stuff," Keuchel said. "It doesn't pay to do that stuff anymore. You get caught, and you won't like the punishment."
Romano emphasized the work of the Astros trainers, who have a large individual role in making sure the event is able to take place every year, along with their role during the program.
"Stay active, and what we want to do is tell them to stay for their life, that's what we promote," Jones said. "They've got to get active early and then they'll stay active."
Mike Vernon is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.