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John Lannan visits the Children's Inn

Before Eric Petel met John Lannan, he covered the back of his neck with the hood of his sweatshirt. He didn't want Lannan to see his New York Yankees tattoo.

Lannan had come to the Children's Inn to visit with seriously ill children like Petel. Eventually, Petel showed him the tattoo. That was okay, Lannan told Petel. He was from New York, too, and the Yankees were his first favorite team. Soon, they were playing pool in a game room.

"It was cool," Petel said. "I kicked his butt."

Yesterday afternoon, Lannan spent time with kids staying at the Children's Inn at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda. He played pool and air hockey, handed out T-shirts and signed autographs. Tonight, those kids and their families will attend the Nationals game, sitting behind the bullpen and wearing shirts with Lannan's name on the back.

"It's something my parents taught me as a little kid," Lannan said. "We have all the time in the world to go out and do stuff. We live a great life. It's just giving back a little bit."

The game will help the Children's Inn achieve its goal: "The mission of the Inn is to take their mind off the reason that they're here," said Meredith Daly, the media relations coordinator. "We are highly skilled at taking kids' minds off that yucky stuff." Put another way, they do whatever they can to make children forget they're going through hell.

The Inn supports 59 families with children who receive care at NIH. The children there are all either chronically or seriously ill. "Everyone who comes here has come here because all other treatment has failed," Daly said. It provides support to families and a place for them to stay. On Monday, that meant Lannan visiting.

"Here, we have our issues, and then we go to the hospital," Petel said. "Some days it's an easy day. Some days it's a hard day. Just coming back here and relaxing, and having baseball teams or football teams, whatever kind of sport teams, come in and hang out with us is pretty cool. It's taking time out of their day. It shows that they care."

Petel, 23, has been coming to the Inn since he was 16. He was born in Harlem with HIV and he was adopted when he was 16 months old. Petel's biological mother died when he was 3. He assumes his father is also dead, because he stayed in the HIV unit of prison. Petel has seven tattoos, and they all meaning. He has one each for the two big sisters and one younger brother who have passed away.

"What he's not saying is he's terminally ill," said his mother, Helen Petel. "He's resistant to the meds, and right now his kidneys are failing. He has to have a kidney biopsy Thursday. He also has a blockage to both arteries in his heart. His body is basically falling apart bit by bit. So he keeps coming here."

Petel smiled often Monday. He showed off pictures of his 4x4 Jeep Grand Charokee with twin 15-inch subwoofers inside -- "my project," he said. He talked about how he'll still be proud of his tattoos when he's 75. He boasted about the friends he has met at the Inn.

"To me, it's fun," Petel said. "This is my vacation from all the stress out there. I can have the stress from the doctors when I'm over there, and then come over here, play pool, go on the computer, watch the movie, play video games, just kick back and relax."

Lannan stayed in Washington over the offseason, in part because he wanted to involve himself in the community. He visited the Children's Inn at Halloween and decided he wanted to come back again. Lannan left them tickets and food vouchers. "That's someone who really understands what these families are going through," Daly said.
"It doesn't really take much," Lannan said. "And it goes a long way."

By Adam Kilgore  |  April 20, 2010; 10:25 AM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Willie Harris provides power and, for himself, relief
Next: Checking in on Nationals minor leagues


Mr. Lannan was already one of my favorite Nats players, but I'll be cheering a bit louder for him now. And will never, EVER boo him again. Ever. Even if he pitches Marquis-bad.

Posted by: Mathonwy | April 20, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for posting this story Adam. What a great look at Lannan's remarkable character to help those that need it most.

Posted by: JoeD1 | April 20, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Proud to have the guy on this team

Posted by: SCNatsFan | April 20, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Atta boy, Johnny!

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 20, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Mr Lannan knows what is important in life, and having had some experience with a critically ill teen I know how much this means to those with whom he shared his time. Good job John!

Posted by: NatsFly | April 20, 2010 11:34 AM | Report abuse

In other news, I found the Livo-Elvis scoop on Debbi Taylor's MASN blog (see below). I *thought* that might be the case. I love Livo, but he doesn't have the smallest head around. :-)

"On Friday, Josh Willingham sported the silver Elvis hairdo, but on Sunday, Livan Hernandez had the wig hanging in his locker because he told me it didn't fit!"

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 20, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

"On Friday, Josh Willingham sported the silver Elvis hairdo, but on Sunday, Livan Hernandez had the wig hanging in his locker because he told me it didn't fit!"


I remember seeing Willingham with the Silver Elvis wig...Looked like someone in a Gladiator movie, just hanging out and waiting on his chariot...

Posted by: TimDz | April 20, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

From earlier post:

"I wish they would put Maxwell in right for a month and see what happens. All this rotating around and shifting up and down is not helping us find out anything."

I totally agree. The upside in doing this is huge, the downside is negligible. You know what his potential is, and if the issue is whether he can do it consistently, you have to PLAY him consistently. This is the year to find out.

Posted by: Meridian1 | April 20, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

We all must realize that the time will come when an entire section of fans will have silver Elvis wigs. And the music selection at the game will all be Elvis. Someone let a monster loose ...

Having been in similar if not as dire straits as Mr. Petel close to his age I can well imagine what it is like. John Lannan is giving back while making the right kind of loyal fan base for himself and the team. I think the kids might think it fun if he wore the silver elvis wig on a visit at some point ... ;)

Posted by: periculum | April 20, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

"On Friday, Josh Willingham sported the silver Elvis hairdo, but on Sunday, Livan Hernandez had the wig hanging in his locker because he told me it didn't fit!"

Nyjer needs to go back and find a bigger one ...

Posted by: periculum | April 20, 2010 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Okay, who's gonna wear the jumpsuit? :-)

See also below. That flashing pin is pretty sa-weet. I like the baseball, too.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 20, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse

Good for JL, and thanks for highlighting his good work in the post Adam. Kind of puts things in perspective.

On ESPN last night, the gang of four doing the baseball wrapup (sorry, I don't watch ESPN that much), was having a great time showing and talking about Stammen wearing the Elvis wig. They were wondering whether Stammen knew it was on his head! One guy said he thought it was team practice to have the winning pitcher wear it. I guess he missed Willingham and Harris.

Posted by: Section222 | April 20, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

I agree about Maxwell. Assuming we cut Dukes to give him a chance, well, give him a chance. Rotating Max, Harris, Morse and Tavares isn't a plan.

Posted by: SCNatsFan | April 20, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Great story, Adam. Great to hear also that JL "stayed in Washington over the offseason." The more players that do that, the deeper the roots the Nats will plant in the community.

BTW, rooting for our current rotation to stay together: if Marquis can iron out his kinks or whatever it is, we will have some very solid hitters in the #9 slot. Did you watch Stammen handle the bat last night? Johnny Boy is probably the weak link, but he's improving & can occasionally slap a single to LF. When Livo's not golfing with Stammen, maybe he can go to a batting cage with John.

Posted by: CapPeterson1 | April 20, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

The Rockies' team president was found dead in his hotel room. That's awful. I know we're supposed to be in the spirit of competition, but what an awful situation for those guys.

Posted by: CapitolWill | April 20, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

here's a link:

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 20, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

and the AP story so far
Police: Rockies President Found Dead in Hotel Room
Published: April 20, 2010
Filed at 1:43 p.m. ET

DENVER (AP) -- Police say Colorado Rockies president Keli McGregor was found dead in his hotel room in Salt Lake City on Tuesday morning.

Detective Rick Wall said two of McGregor's associates couldn't get in touch with him and that someone entered his room at the hotel in downtown Salt Lake City and found McGregor unconscious.

Wall said it was unclear who discovered the 48-year-old McGregor. Police were called about 9 a.m. MDT and emergency workers arrived on the scene and were unable to revive him.

Wall said the investigation has been turned over to the medical examiner's office. He did not have any additional details.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 20, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

There's no chance of tonight's game being postponed because of the Rockies' team president's death, is there?

Posted by: Juan-John1 | April 20, 2010 1:59 PM | Report abuse

@ J-J;
I'm sure there will be a moment of silence before the game tonight. But it will go on as scheduled.

Posted by: bertbkatz | April 20, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

It may depend on the wishes of the team. I believe that when Harry Kalas died at Nats Park, the Phillies were given the option of postponing the game, but they opted not to.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | April 20, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Really nice story about John Lannan's volunteering. Very sad about the Rockies' team president.

Posted by: samantha7 | April 20, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Good show, John. :O)

Posted by: ericroks | April 20, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

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