Fmr. Gamecock battles auto immune disease while playing pro ball

By Rick Henry - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - A former Gamecock star continues to play baseball, despite dealing with a very serious illness.

Landon Powell reported to training camp Monday in Arizona with the Oakland Athletics. Powell is managing to play pro baseball while dealing with a medical condition that could one day require him to have an organ transplant.

On a sunny January afternoon two years ago, former Gamecock catcher Landon Powell practiced with the USC baseball team. When Powell was getting himself ready for spring training he started having some health concerns.

"I started getting a little ill, a little sick," said Powell. "I lost my appetite and was losing weight and noticed my skin color was changing a little bit started getting a little yellow."

Powell went to the doctor, who discovered his liver levels were high. They didn't know why, and Powell continued training. "I collapsed during a workout in January had to be rushed to the hospital," he recounted. "They weren't exactly sure what was wrong, but they knew my liver was about to go into failure.

"They diagnosed me with an auto immune disease called auto immune hepatitis," continued Powell. "Basically my immune system tries to kill my liver on a daily basis."

There's no cure for Powell's condition. Once he knew it could be controlled with medication, he started thinking about his baseball career. "I was a month away from spring training," said Powell. "I was like, 'this is my job. This is how I put food on the table for my family. I need to know if I can go play.'"
That spring, Powell made the big league roster of the Oakland Athletics. One year later he was behind the plate, catching a perfect game by Dallas Braden.

Powell is hoping to play for seven or eight more years, but he knows his career could be interrupted at any moment. "They told me I would probably need a transplant at some point in my life," said Powell. "It just kind of depends how my liver reacts to the medication. Whether it was a five-year period or a 25-year period, they don't know."  

In the meantime, Landon and his wife have started a charity called Donors on the Diamond. They want to bring awareness to the importance of organ and tissue donation. "My baseball career was already saved twice by tissue donation," said Powell. "I had two ACL reconstructions, and both of those I received cadaver ligament. So I would not be able to continue playing baseball if it wasn't for an organ and tissue donor. Two of 'em."   

Landon's charity event attracted 400 people last year in Greenville, and raised $40,000 for donate life South Carolina.

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