With the help of former Major League Baseball (MLB) pitcher and OTF ambassador, David “Boomer” Wells, team OTF raised awareness about TeaZa® Energy and OTF’s mission to end smokeless tobacco use in the US through community outreach, education and sponsorship of youth sports programs.
“It’s great to be part of the movement to get tobacco out of youth sports,” said Wells, who snapped photos with fans and autographed memorabilia in the TeaZa® Energy booth at the convention.
TeaZa® Energy was among more than 320 companies that displayed products, innovations and state-of-the-art equipment at the biggest ABCA tradeshow to date. Team OTF handed out samples of TeaZa® Energy and collected OTF team sponsorship applications during the convention trade show.
The 72nd annual ABCA Convention was attended by more than 5,600 coaches—their largest convention to date.
Event highlights included several meetings, awards presentations and clinic speakers from coaches from college and high school at all levels, including Jeff Messer of Slippery Rock University and Brian O’Connor of Virginia. Several pro coaches and MLB Hall of Fame inductee John Smoltz were also among the presenters.
Awards were presented to the 2016 ABCA/Hall of Fame class including Bob Babb (Johns Hopkins), Augie Garrido (Texas), Sam Riggleman (Spring Arbor) and Ray Tanner (South Carolina) as well as 2016 ABCA/Wilson Lefty Gomez Award winner Dusty Rhodes and the 2016 ABCA/Diamond National Coaches of the Year. John Smoltz and Boston Red Sox pitcher David Price received the ABCA/Honor Award, Brad Bohannon received the ABCA/Baseball America Assistant Coach of the Year Award, Mike Gustafson received the Meritorious Service Award.
The OTF campaign is focused on reaching smokeless tobacco users including some 535,000 kids age 12-17 who try smokeless tobacco for the first time each year in the US.
“As a coach, I’m hoping I can influence kids to refuse to use tobacco in the first place,” said Wells who now serves as head coach of his alma mater’s baseball team at Point Loma High School in San Diego, California.
Wells played in the major leagues for 20 years with several teams including the Toronto Blue Jays and is best known for pitching the 15th perfect game in baseball history when playing for the New York Yankees.
Being a veteran of the major leagues, Wells understands how deeply ingrained smokeless tobacco use is in baseball culture.
Some research indicates as many as 50% of high school athletes use smokeless tobacco on the baseball field at the JV and varsity level.
In 2003, more than 1 in 3 major league baseball players used smokeless tobacco. Athletes are a large marketing source for smokeless tobacco, often seen on TV using it during a game.
But other national initiatives like the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ Knock Tobacco Out of the Park have already thrown a curve ball at the smokeless tobacco industry. OTF’s sponsorship of youth athletic and health programs will build on the momentum toward ending smokeless tobacco use in the US. OTF sponsorships provide a financial donation for equipment and supplies while giving kids on the team the opportunity to take the pledge to refuse to use tobacco.