By Atu Osei-Chambers

Nationals player Ryan Zimmerman poses with the young women involved in the morning of exercise at Nationals Park. Photo courtesy of the Washington Nationals.
Ryan Zimmerman gets ready to toss the ball to a participant in the “Live Positively: Get the Ball Rolling” event. Photo courtesy of the Washington Nationals.

To coincide with the start of National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month in October, the Washington Nationals hosted a youth baseball camp for local D.C. Public School (DCPS) middle-school students in an effort to encourage a healthier, more active lifestyle among the District’s youth. The clinic, which was held during the final weeks of the 2011 baseball season in September, was a joint partnership between the Nationals and Coca-Cola to promote “Live Positively:
Get the Ball Rolling,” an initiative designed to educate youth about the importance of living a healthy lifestyle through proper exercise and nutrition.

Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman joined several local youth baseball coaches to lead the students in a number of exercises throughout the morning and took time to talk about the importance of staying active and making healthy choices.

“Kids these days don’t get out enough and exercise,” Zimmerman said. “If these kids are healthy at a young age, they have a great chance to grow up and be healthy.”

Between running hard sprints during a team relay race and taking part in various baseball drills, 11-year-old Nile Panton was eager to share what she learned from the event.

“I learned how to hold a baseball bat and how to adjust your legs when you hit,” said the energetic Panton. “I also learned that it’s really important to eat healthy because it can help you stay in shape. I like to exercise by playing outside with my friends and playing sports like basketball and track at my school.”

“My favorite event out here was the catching drill,” 11-year-old Brace Barnes said. “I learned the proper way to catch a baseball and throw it.”

Panton and Barnes’ enthusiasm was exactly what the youth baseball coaches in attendance wanted to see.

“I hope they take with them a new mindset about exercising,” said Kenneth Ward, one of the clinic coaches. “These kids are having fun while they play and exercise. These are the lessons they need to learn now to keep them healthy for a
long time.”

DC Dynasty President Antoine Williams, himself a DCPS middle school teacher, was encouraged by the event and believes that the young people participating in the clinic will gain a great deal from this initiative.

“If these kids can make the right choices now, I’m confident they’ll make the right choices later,” Williams said. “I think this clinic will do a lot for their self-esteem, and it builds the excitement to continue doing the right things.”

This is the second consecutive year that the Nationals have teamed up with Coca-Cola on the “Live Positively: Get the Ball Rolling” campaign which launched last year in collaboration with the Washington Capitals, Washington Mystics, Washington Redskins and Washington Wizards. In addition to the Nationals clinic, each of Washington’s professional sports teams will host a clinic in the fall to promote active, healthy living among youth in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

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