When Blue Jays infielder Steve Tolleson walked into the gym at D.A. Morrison Middle School, a wave of smiles and excitement fell across the faces of the sixth-grade students who were eagerly awaiting his arrival. It's not every day a Major League Baseball player pays a visit to their school, and on a gloomy morning in Toronto, it's just what they needed to brighten their day.
Tolleson, along with Blue Jays mascot Ace, were on hand as part of "Blue Jays in the Classroom," an initiative by the organization that promotes healthy and active living for children.
"Gym, running, exercises and trying to stay as active as possible," is how Tolleson described his healthy lifestyle to the group as he led them through a five-minute stretch. He explained to the students that the warmup they were doing was very similar to the one he and his Blue Jays teammates do on a daily basis.
"I show up to the ballpark every day at 1 p.m. and begin my stretching routine," the 30-year-old Tolleson explained. "Stretching is essential in sport, as it prepares your body for the aches and pains of the season."
After the stretch was complete, it was time for a fun game of soccer-baseball, or kickball as it is also known. Team Tolleson took on Team Ace, and although Tolleson's team came out victorious in the end, the most important outcome was that everyone enjoyed themselves while being active.
After the game, students were given a chance to ask Tolleson questions while listening to stories from his childhood in Spartanburg, S.C.
"More than anything in the world," replied Tolleson when asked if he always wanted to be a baseball player. "I began playing ball when I was a bit younger than you guys. I started with Little League, worked hard at it, and now I'm a Major Leaguer."
Tolleson, who made his MLB debut in 2010 with the Athletics, described to the class that his most memorable moment came on June 10, 2012, as a member of Orioles, when he hit a game-winning three-run home run off Cliff Lee. "That was a pretty special moment that I'll never forget."
One answer that didn't sit well with the class was when Tolleson mentioned that his favourite team growing up was the rival New York Yankees, drawing a few boos and gasps from the students.
"I had a good reason, though," Tolleson said laughing. "My dad played for them, so I didn't really have a choice."
Tolleson's father, Wayne, played infield for the Yankees from 1986-1990. Much of Tolleson's and his brother Clint's childhood were spent hanging around Yankee Stadium and watching their dad play. However, Tolleson quickly made amends with the young fans when he professed his love for Toronto.
"I tell ya, I love this city," he said. "You fans have been awesome, and this is a great organization to play for."
The day would not be complete without a few parting gifts for the class. Each student was given a Blue Jays cap, which Tolleson happily autographed, as well as a Blue Jays water bottle.
It's sure to be day that none of them will forget any time soon.
Jon Cram is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.