It sure is nice to have some players staying in Washington during this offseason. Both John Lannan and Craig Stammen opted to spend time in the nation's capital this winter while training with strength and conditioning coach John Philbin in Gaithersburg, MD.
Staying in the area has allowed both players to make additional community service appearances and to interact with fans on a regular basis.
Over the weekend, the teammates showed up at Bethesda Big Train's annual Base Ball & Auction to sign autographs to meet and greet fans and families and to present some auction items.
"It just makes it so much more exciting for all the fans who are here to be with some big league guys," said Chairman Bruce Adams. "Everyone who is here is a great baseball fan. To have these guys here is a real special treat."
Auction items included a 2009 Nationals autographed team ball and photograph with Lannan and Stammen as well as a special Nationals Game-Night Spectacular package (great tickets, dinner and a Ryan Zimmerman signed ball), as well as hundreds of other autographed sports memorabilia items, special experiences, gift certificates and books.
"Just like with the Children's Inn the other day, we're here [this offseason] and this is a great organization, so it's good to come out to meet the fans, to thank them for supporting us and to be part of the community," said Lannan.
Tim Kurkjian, a Bethesda native, talked to the crowd about the beauty of baseball, the World Series, his career and the future of the Nationals. Kurkjian even told a story about speaking to one of Lannan's teammates from Sienna college about the star's quick rise to the Majors. After his remarks, he took a few questions from the fans.
"I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel here. The GM is a good guy. He knows what he's doing," said Kurkjian.
"With Stephen Strasburg and some good young pitching we have right in the room, I think there's hope here."
"But, we have to all understand it can't just be done in one year...and at some point, they have to get to the point where people are going to want to come here and say the Nationals are a gold mine in Washington, which it should be, soon," he continued.
Bethesda Big Train is a summer amateur league which plays in the Cal Ripken, Sr. Collegiate Baseball League. They won the championship in 2009 and 34 Big Train alumni have played in the Major Leagues. The organization raises money to improve the quality of youth baseball and softball fields in Montgomery County and the District of Columbia.
"It's a great organization and we are happy to come out here and support them," continued Stammen.
Photos courtesy of Cheryl Nichols