This Houston Chronicle carries a story on Don Hooton's effort at educating youngsters on the dangers of steroids and PEDs. The Taylor Hooton Foundation from Plano TX received a nice donation from Alex Rodriguez following his steroids admissions.
THe Hooton Foundation often draws the ire of bodybuilders for being anti-steroid, however the foundation's effort target youngsters. There would be universal aggreement that adolescents should not be exposed to the drugs.
Quite the opposite, in fact.
The suburban Dallas father whose son's suicide was linked to steroid use started the Taylor Hooton Foundation to honor the 17-year-old's memory and try to fill what he saw as a void in educating youth on the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs.
Fundraising has been modest, and the list of athletes joining Hooton's cause is short. Hooton believes both could change after he attended Rodriguez's first news conference since the New York Yankees third baseman admitted using performance enhancers from 2001-03. Rodriguez, an 11-time All-Star, used that forum two weeks ago in Florida to announce his intention to help Hooton's foundation.
Hooton is hoping Rodriguez can give his foundation access to corporate sponsors it hasn't had before. He is unfazed by derisive alternatives to Rodriguez's iconic nickname, A-Rod, or that the steroids admission meant Rodriguez lied in a nationally televised interview in 2007.
"If you ever went ... to Gamblers Anonymous and were going to take a lesson, you don't go to the guy that's never gambled," Hooton said. "If you think back to the last five or six years, who would you reach out to? Who is clean? At least we're dealing with a known quantity here. And certainly just from notoriety and visibility, we could not have found a better player, I think, to associate with..."
More on the Taylor Hooton Foundation after the jump...
The foundation has a program called "Hoot's Chalk Talk" that makes presentations at middle schools, junior highs and high schools. Hooton said about 50,000 kids so far have seen the program, "but on the other hand we've got millions of kids to reach."
To do that, the foundation will need more than its current $700,000 budget, most of which comes from a five-year contract with Major League Baseball that pays $500,000 annually. Hooton said the goal is to get the annual budget in the range of $3 million to $5 million in order to reach 10,000 schools nationally.
More importantly, he said he wants to make good on a vow to baseball commissioner Bud Selig not to be so heavily reliant on that sport.
"With the current economy and everything that's going on, everybody's in the same tough boat," Hooton said. "Thank goodness we've got a committed partner in MLB."
The Rodriguez admission after a Sports Illustrated report about his positive tests for performance-enhancing drugs became the latest publicity boost for Hooton and his group. He was first noticed nationally at the congressional steroid hearings in 2005, just about the time his foundation was given nonprofit status by the IRS.
Some of the biggest names in baseball were spellbound by the story of Taylor Hooton, who apparently took steroids to give himself a better chance to compete on his high school team in Plano, north of Dallas. Doctors said the cousin of former major league pitcher Burt Hooton suffered from depression after he quit taking the drugs.
Hooton's group was in a lull between waves when the Rodriguez news hit, but now he says his foundation has actually reached out to a player for the first time. Hooton put out feelers to the Yankees and MLB and said he heard back from Rodriguez within 24 hours.
"The stars lined up," Hooton said. "He seemed to be the right guy at the right time and the right place, and we picked up the phone and called."
Now Hooton has visions of doing more things with the Yankees and using Rodriguez to connect with more players. The Yankees and baseball's powerful union say they support Hooton's efforts.
"We expect to work with him, to hold some kind of event at Yankee Stadium," said Yankees president Randy Levine. "It's important to note these conversations have been going on before A-Rod."
Might pro athletes avoid an association with the Hooton Foundation?
Baseball union head Donald Fehr took issue at the perception — shared even by Hooton — that his group has discouraged players from speaking out about steroids.
"We certainly wish (Hooton) well and hope he can have a fair degree of success with it," Fehr said. "And if Alex Rodriguez or any other player wants to help him out, that's entirely their choice and we commend them to the effort. I hope it works out to everybody's benefit."