10/05/10 6:53 PM ET
Rangers teach kids importance of health, play
Club visits local school to educate children on fitness
By Rush Olson / Special to MLB.com
The Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation and Medical Center of Arlington started the fourth year of the Rangers MCA Fitness All-Stars program by educating Ashworth Elementary students about ways to improve their fitness. With the team about to begin its playoff series against the Rays, the audience wore custom-decorated Rangers foam antlers. The speakers hoped to capitalize on the children's enthusiasm for baseball by reminding them about the role exercise and nutrition have played in the club's success on the diamond. Former Rangers Gold Glove catcher Jim Sundberg drew some gasps when he showed his 1985 Royals World Series ring. The Rangers' current senior executive vice president followed up by reinforcing that proper diet and exercise helped him acquire it.
Executive director Karin Morris explained the foundation's goals for the event.
"The key today was that through the foundation and the Rangers organization, we were able to bring together the [Arlington] Fire Department, former Rangers players Pete O'Brien and Jim Sundberg and Medical Center of Arlington to share their knowledge about nutrition and fitness, and to provide an opportunity for Arlington children to be a part of the playoff experience."
Ashworth principal Rhonda Greer explained how she felt her charges benefited from the presentation.
"We're not always eating as healthy as we need to and kids need to look at labels and to do what's right for their little bodies so they can grow," she said. "It showed by the Rangers coming that fitness and health all goes together to make a successful person."
The team has used mascot Rangers Captain as a focal point of the campaign against childhood obesity, and he entered the school parking lot on a fire truck to the sound of sirens. After the mascot made some exaggerated points about nutrition, the firefighters gave the children some more everyday examples of how fitness can play into one's career. And then it was time for some actual play.
From tug-of-war with a fire hose to throwing baseballs with O'Brien and the Rangers camps and clinics staff to playing a version "red light, green light" to learn about healthy foods, the Ashworth fifth grade spent the next 45 minutes at play. Afterward, Rangers personnel reiterated that as children, their jobs resembled those of ballplayers -- to play. The boys and girls then offered their encouragement to the team with a "Let's Go Rangers" chant.
The Rangers and MCA had designed the event with the children's enjoyment in mind. But the adults also had fun, including MCA director of marketing Abbi Miller.
"Being able to give back to kids and seeing them enjoy being out here and being a part of this and seeing them enjoy being healthy and being active, and also to get to see them interact with Captain and certainly to be excited about the Rangers and their playoff journey is a great thing to do."
The fitness program will continue throughout the school year in the Arlington ISD, whose superintendent, Jerry McCullough, attended Tuesday's program. He even participated in some pre-play stretching after Rangers Captain drafted him. His district's physical education instructors each receive a DVD with Rangers Captain's educational videos which they incorporate into their curriculum. The Rangers and MCA then gave students incentives by rewarding an exceptional child at every school each month and bringing the mascot and firefighters to one school for monthly presentations. Rangers fans inside and outside the AISD can access the videos and other educational materials at texasrangers.com/fitness.
Rush Olson is a contributor to MLB.com.