By Genaro C. Armas
AP Sports Writer
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Little League Baseball plans to introduce an educational program for coaches and volunteers intended to raise awareness about the use and dangers of performance-enhancing drugs among young players.
Working with the Taylor Hooton Foundation, Little League hopes to have an online program ready for the 2014 season. The youth sports organization had been in discussions with the foundation for more than a year about such a program, well before Major League Baseball announced suspensions recently for more than a dozen players following a lengthy investigation into a Florida anti-aging clinic accused of distributing PEDs.
The most recent batch of suspensions handed down Aug. 5 came less than two weeks before the start of the Little League World Series, which is scheduled to begin Thursday. Thousands of coaches, along with young players and their families are expected to visit South Williamsport during the 11-day tournament, and foundation president Don Hooton plans to attend, too, to spread his awareness message in person.
“This is a teachable moment. Ever parent, every coach should take the opportunity of all these suspensions to sit down and talk to your kids about why they shouldn’t be involved in performance-enhancing drugs,” Hooton said in a recent phone interview.
His 17-year-old son Taylor — a cousin of former big league pitcher Burt Hooton — committed suicide in July 2003. Doctors attributed Taylor’s behavior to depression that occurred when he stopped using performance-enhancing drugs.
More than 2.4 million boys and girls play Little League baseball and softball, according to the organization that also has roughly 1 million volunteers.
The Hooton Foundation works with Major League Baseball, as well as local athletic leagues. A program with Little League would give the foundation an even broader audience.
“We are extraordinarily excited about this,” he said. “As much work as we’ve done over the past 10 years, this offers the largest single audience to our message, to reach out at one time.”
Citing various studies, Hooton has estimated 1 million to 1.5 million adolescents in the United States have used steroids.
A separate study released in May jointly commissioned by the foundation, the Baseball Hall of Fame and the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society said that American adults ranked steroid use among adolescents as less of a problem than alcohol, bullying, marijuana and sexually transmitted