Play Ball – Drug Prevention Baseball

by Jose A. Cruz

If it’s spring, it’s time to “play ball” at the Greenville Sixth Grade Center. However this game is not played with bats and balls, but with drug fact questions and answers.

Oh, there are the familiar score board, pitchers mound, bases and home plate, but instead of being outside the building, they can be found in the school library or in the gym, for the “big” World Series Championship.

I’m talking about the annual Drug Prevention Baseball series sponsored by DrugFree Greenville being played on campus each spring. As a science and social studies teacher I have had the opportunity to join the ranks of Prevention Baseball “Coach”.

Drug Prevention Baseball was developed by DrugFree Greenville to inform students about the affects of gateway drugs on the body, reasons why some people use them, and basic facts and statistics about the drugs themselves. Students learn about tobacco, marijuana, inhalants, and alcohol in their regular science and social studies classrooms with their class peers. They practice questions & answers and study the facts at home in preparation.

Like the real game of baseball, there are bases, runners, and teams. There will be community volunteer “celebrity” pitchers, umpires, base coaches and score keepers.

The pitcher throws questions about the 4 gateway drugs to the “batting” students. The difficulty of the question determines how many bases the students “run” when correctly answering, thereby earning a hit. Points are scored only when the students make it around all the bases and cross home plate. There are innings and outs just like baseball with the winner determined by the number of runs a team scores. The two top teams compete for the championship in an all-school assembly.

During the 4 years I have taught 6th graders, I have experienced younger students experimenting or being exposed to gateway drugs. I also remember growing up and being exposed to alcohol and tobacco daily either from my own home or while walking home. I even thought that such things were cool and that I might want to try them. It is that very attitude that drives the need for Drug Prevention Baseball.
Younger students don’t really understand or even know much about gateway drugs and consequences of use. They are more likely to try something even if they don’t really know what it is they are doing, or how it could affect their school life and personal lives. Although they become smarter everyday, they still can be easily influenced.

I believe in Prevention Baseball. I was a freshman in high school before I was taught about the gateway drugs in health class. I had already been exposed to such things as early as 5th grade. One statistic that continues to bother me is that most students are introduced to drugs and drug use by people they know like a parent or family member or even a friend of the family. I believe that if I had had an opportunity to learn about gateway drugs at an earlier age I could have taught my younger siblings about the things we saw growing up and ways to prevent exposure or to at least minimize the damage caused by these drugs. I could have even told my parents about the affects of gateway drugs on our family.

Through prevention programs, damage to families, the community and individuals can be reduced. I enjoy teaching about drug abuse and watching the students play Prevention Baseball games. My experiences with students have included those who have never even seen a gateway drug and also those who were experimenting with use.

And I find sometimes that after the program is taught, some students who thought they had never heard of or seen a drug before, realize that they have been exposed either through personal contact or some type of mainstream media like the internet and television. And on occasion those already experimenting have confided in me they want some type of mentoring or counseling to help them avoid drugs.

Education and awareness works. This is why I am very appreciative to Drug Free Greenville for their dedication to the community and to our students here in Greenville, Texas.

Jose A. Cruz is a Science/Social Studies Teacher at the Greenville 6th Grade Educational Center