A-Rod allies himself with a father who lost son to steroids
The Taylor Hooton Foundation for Fighting Steroid Abuse, which New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez publicly allied himself with during Tuesday's news conference in Tampa, Fla., underscores the dangers when young athletes turn to performance-enhancing drugs
Don Hooton created the Plano, Texas-based nonprofit in 2004, a year after his 17-year-old son, Taylor, committed suicide. The high school athlete had been using steroids prior to his death in a bid to bulk up his body and improve his baseball game.
The nonprofit's mission statement is blunt: "To strengthen the youth of America through the elimination of the use of all performance enhancing drugs in our nation’s high schools and junior high schools.”
So why is the nonprofit willing to embrace Rodriguez?
"We reached out to Alex after his ESPN interview, in which he stressed he wants to turn his mistake into something positive by focusing on youth anti-steroid education," Hooton said in statement released Tuesday. "Since we began talking to him we have found his sense of regret is genuine and his commitment to help is strong."
MLB.com reports that Hooton also left messages with the Yankees, Rodriguez's agent, Scott Boras, and a representative of Major League Baseball -- which already has a financial tie to the nonprofit. In 2005, baseball Commissioner Bud Selig pledged $1 million to the organization, which educates youngsters on the risks of performance-enhancing drugs.
"We are focused on reaching kids," Hooton said in his statement. "Alex has a unique, extremely important and very real message to bring to young people -- a message that can literally keep kids away from these drugs and save lives.
"Alex has admitted his mistake, one of the very few players to do so. We are glad he is stepping up to the plate. Together with him we can have a positive result and get the message out to America's youth."
There is plenty of work to be done, according to the organization's website:
How big is this whole performance enhancing drug problem? Most experts agree that about a million high school students have taken anabolic steroids and that number has been increasing each year. The fastest growing user group is young girls! This stuff is all around us -– and our kids are buying this junk locally. Taylor met his dealer at our neighborhood YMCA.
-- Greg Johnson
Photo: Alex Rodriguez, right, speaks to Don Hooton after the Yankees third baseman's Tuesday news conference at George Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla. Credit: Mary Altaffer / Associated Press