PARK SLOPE — Getting out of bed in the morning to exercise takes serious motivation, but kids and parents at P.S. 39 had an extra incentive on Friday — the chance to meet a Major League Baseball player.
Park Slope native and P.S. 39 alum Adam Ottavino, a pitcher with the Colorado Rockies, was up and at 'em at 7:30 a.m. to help launch a 10-week morning fitness program in which kids and parents will exercise together before school.
Friday's session had kids and parents playing volleyball with beach balls while iPod speakers blasted Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe." In the weeks to come, the program will feature football, "heart-healthy aerobics" for Valentine's Day and basketball to coincide with March Madness, said P.S. 39 PTA president Jo Goldfarb.
The fitness series is part of a schoolwide effort to improve students' health through exercise and nutrition. Budget cuts at P.S. 39 forced the school to put its only gym teacher on a part-time schedule this year, so most students only get gym once a week, Goldfarb said.
In response, the school's PTA has paid for "recess coaches" to help kids organize games during recess. Parents also formed a wellness committee that applied for and won a $2,500 grant from the Department of Education. The money will cover the cost of the 10-week family fitness program, as well as some nutrition classes.
With Ottavino as the star attraction, roughly 100 families crammed into Friday's inaugural exercise session in the gym across from P.S. 39 at Camp Friendship.
The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Ottavino towered over almost everyone in the room, and happily posed for photos and signed autographs. Ottavino's mom, Eve, is a fourth grade teacher at P.S. 39, and said she often talks about her son in class to remind students about the value of hard work and perserverance.
Ottavino, who graduated from the Berkeley Carroll School, was a first-round draft pick for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006. He told students he spent almost every day playing in Prospect Park when he was a kid, and said running around outside is a better way to spend time than playing video games.
"People aren't being as active as they should be because there's so much entertainment you can do sitting down," said Ottavino, 28. "The only TV I watched when I was little besides cartoons was sports. I really wanted to be one of those guys."