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PLAY Campaign makes stop at Chase Field

D-backs pitcher Josh Collmenter chats about healthy living with eager participants

PLAY Campaign makes stop at Chase Field

PHOENIX -- A group of about 50 kids came out to Chase Field on Wednesday afternoon to play some games and learn how to stay healthy -- and they got a first-hand lesson while they were there.

As temperatures soared over 100 degrees, the message of the day was simple: Stay hydrated.

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The participants in the National PLAY Campaign were rewarded with an appearance and Q&A session with D-backs starter Josh Collmenter.

"It means a lot to the kids just to be able to give back a little bit," Collmenter said. "A lot of times, kids will listen, but especially if they know or see a figure that kind of makes more sense to them. Because a lot of times you hear things from teachers, you hear things from people and it might go in one ear and out the other.

"But having a little bit of authority -- I guess just being a baseball player -- they might listen to that a little more."

D-backs head athletic trainer Ken Crenshaw led the program on Wednesday. The kids split up into three groups, doing different drills and learning how to eat healthy.

Assistant trainer Ryan DiPanfilo led a group of participants in the shady bullpen and tried to point out important methods of maintaining a healthy diet. He said the five main points he wanted to make to them were eating fruits and vegetables, eating consistently throughout the day, keeping hydrated, eating healthy snacks like fruits or whole grains and getting enough fiber.

Fiber may not be the most interesting topic to a 7-year-old who is about to meet a Major League Baseball player. But Jon Meyers, the Executive Director of The Arc of Arizona, said that he hopes they took in the information while having fun.

"I think it's probably not foremost in their mind that what they're engaging in here is living out the message of PLAY, but you see in the kind of energy they're devoting to it, you see in the excitement they're feeling about it that what they want to do is be active," Meyers said. "So whether its conscious or subconscious or unconscious -- whatever the proper term might be -- the message is getting in."

Wednesday's event was the first time The Arc, an advocate group for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, participated in PLAY, and Meyers thought it was a rousing success.

"If I've heard one thing over and over again, it's that phrase: 'He's so excited" or 'She's so excited,'" Meyers said. "To be on the field at Chase Field, to be down here where Major League Baseball players are making their living and where we're seeing them on them TV -- that's an experience that any child would cherish, especially a child who typically wouldn't have this type of opportunity."

Added Crenshaw: "I felt like we had a really receptive group. Sometimes kids come and they're not quite sure why they're here. They're a little bit younger and they just don't understand what it's all about. … But the group today was great."

Meyers said The Arc's involvement in PLAY was very important to the kids, but also to their parents, whose reactions he said were "almost indescribable."

"Too often, they are sort of relegated to activities that are specific to kids with disabilities," Meyers said. "Although those kinds of recreation activities are wonderful … part of where we're moving in society is toward inclusion and making sure that even people with disabilities are part of the greater community."

Adam Lichtenstein 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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