In the movies you can still see it glamorized. In the Tom Hanks film, A League of Their Own, Hanks’character prompts Geena Davis’ character to try chewing tobacco stating “that a lot of ball players do it.” Later, they are seen spitting together and he says, “That was a good one!” That is how it starts: one small influence begins a life of addiction to tobacco.

While chewing tobacco is banned in NCAA baseball as well as the U. S. minor leagues, even smoking cigarettes in the dugout is not allowed at the major league level. Nevertheless, at almost every game you can see someone with a lump in their cheeks that represents “chew”.

As a plastic surgeon, we perform a lot of reconstructions on the human body. Some of the most well-known include breasts for women with cancer, however, to date, the longest operation that I have ever been involved with – over 31 hours – was a jaw reconstruction for a man that developed oral cancer from chewing tobacco.

I applaud Tony Gwynn who in recent years despite his physical and mental pain, took his experience in baseball and his addiction to chewing tobacco and decided to push for a change in major league baseball to fight this dreaded disease.  The Jackie Robinson West team are champions on the baseball field because of their ability and their poise and our city celebrates the achievement that they have brought.

Let’s make sure that the influences that define them are positive and uplifting. After all, they have a great mentor, Joseph Howard Haley, who encouraged us to play like men, and be better kids as a result.


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How Sports Mentoring Helps Youth Avoid Tobacco Dangers  was originally published on

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