Former Rangers pitcher helps teach Arlington fifth-graders about health and fitness

ARLINGTON -- A corny dog isn't a healthy food choice and it makes for a terrible baseball bat as well.

That's one of the lessons that fifth-graders at Duff Elementary School learned Tuesday from former Texas Rangers pitcher Mike Jeffcoat during a health and fitness education event sponsored by Medical Center of Arlington and the Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation.

While talking about the importance of good nutrition, adequate sleep and regular exercise, Jeffcoat pitched a leafy head of lettuce at team mascot Rangers Captain, who was batting unsuccessfully with a corny dog.

After the lettuce exploded on the ground, Jeffcoat helped the students perfect their pitches with actual baseballs as part of the Fitness All-Stars Program.

"This is the perfect age for them to start learning those habits -- consistent exercise and learning to eat healthy," Jeffcoat said. "Studies have proven they will make good grades, have better self-esteem, have a better overall attitude and better health as they get older."

The program, launched in 2006, aims to promote healthy life choices and prevent childhood obesity by teaching Arlington school district fifth-graders how to read food labels and stay active.

As part of the fun fitness activities, Arlington firefighters had students play tug of war with a fire hose, which later doubled as a jump-rope for a jumping contest.

"It's simple things to show them you don't have to have a big, expensive gym to be healthy," said Karin Morris, executive director of the Rangers foundation. "You simply have to be active."

Duff Elementary students also showed their team pride for the Rangers, who have clinched a playoff spot for the third consecutive year.

"One of the reasons they are so successful is because they exercise a lot and they pay attention to what they eat," said Patty Fearka, a physical therapist with the hospital told the students.

Jack Campbell, 10, acknowledges that he likes broccoli but says he's an even bigger fan of his hometown baseball team.

Getting to meet Jeffcoat and Rangers Captain is "pretty cool," Jack said.

Susan Schrock, 817-709-7578