WASHINGTON -- John Lannan has been one of the brightest spots in a tough season for the Nationals. The young left-hander is one of the best rookie hurlers in all of baseball, and Washington sees him as a premier pitcher in the near future.
He took some time Wednesday to meet with fans at the ESPN Zone in downtown D.C. and chat on several subjects. The Long Island, N.Y., native answered all kinds of questions from emcee and Nationals radio man Charlie Slowes, as well as a gathered crowd of around 100 people.
Five lucky fans also won sets of tickets to the Nationals-Dodgers series coming up later this month.
Lannan fielded questions on subjects including his time in the Minors, his college years and his favorite New York sports teams. Here's what the southpaw had to say:
Question: What in your background helped you develop into who you are now?
Lannan: My dad's been a big influence in my life, especially [in] baseball. He's been my coach since I was 6 [years old]. I basically had been a late-bloomer, I guess you could say, so in high school, I really didn't get my feet wet until my junior or senior year.
I went to Siena College, up in Albany, N.Y., it's a low D-1 school. Freshman and sophomore year, I went through my growing pains, and junior year I had a pretty good year, broke a couple school records. I got [scouted] by a couple of teams, and the Nationals picked me up in their first year.
Question: What is it like pitching for the Nationals, and what would you tell kids who want to follow in your footsteps?
Lannan: It feels great. To be a big league pitcher has been a dream of mine since I was [young]. It's a dream come true, and I feel blessed every day.
Listen to your parents, stay in school and [put in] a lot of hard work.
Question: Were you a Yankees fan or a Mets fan growing up? What about other New York sports?
Lannan: Yankees, definitely the Yankees. Even though I did go to some Mets games when I was younger, the Yankees were definitely the team that I liked most.
I loved Don Mattingly ... that whole team, I loved Bernie Williams, and all those guys definitely paved the way for my Major League baseball career.
I'm a Giants fan and I'm a Rangers fan, because one of my friends had season tickets, so I always went to a lot of Rangers games.
Question: Who's the best character in the clubhouse?
Lannan: Everybody brings something to the table. Right now, Willie Harris is definitely bringing a lot of life, and Ronnie Belliard.
All the veterans that have been around a little bit, they kind of mold us young players, and it's great having those guys in the clubhouse. It's just a great clubhouse.
Question: After a rough outing earlier this year, you left early then rejoined your team in the dugout. Does it help more to be there to pull for your team than to be, say, watching film back in the clubhouse?
Lannan: There's only so much tape you can watch. You learn the most from your losses. You learn something from your wins, but you lose the most from your losses.
You just want to be out there, you're still cheering the team on, and hopefully you can come back. But I definitely learn more from sitting there and taking everything I can in.
Question: You attended Siena College in New York, where it was probably pretty cold at the beginning of the season. What was it like pitching in that kind of cold?
Lannan: I don't mind pitching in the cold. I train in the cold, because I live in New York, but it's definitely something that's an advantage early in the season.
It's definitely tougher.
Question: Who's your best friend on the team?
Lannan: Everybody's my friend on the team, but I like to hang out with the starting pitchers. Tim Redding, Jason Bergmann and Collin Balester, and Joel Hanrahan, our new closer, we're pretty close, too. But I get along with everybody.
Question: What's it like being compared to pitchers like Tom Glavine and John Smoltz so early in your career?
Lannan: I mean, it's too early to say. Those guys, they're just great. Three hundred wins is unbelievable, 3,000 strikeouts is unbelievable. Those guys, that's what I strive to be someday.
Pitching against John Smoltz when he was going for his 3,000th strikeout [earlier this season] was definitely cool, and then I met Tom Glavine and got him to sign an autograph for me. Those guys are just great guys in the game, they've been around awhile, and it's just great to watch them pitch.
Question: What's your favorite pitch?
Lannan: My favorite pitch is a strike. That is the best pitch in the game.
Zachary Osterman is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.